Updated April 24 at 4:45pm

Building relationships key to nonprofit fundraising

'The most meaningful philanthropy happens when you have a relationship with the donor.'

Ask around at the next group gathering you happen to attend and you’ll likely find that most everyone will agree the state’s waterways are deserving of protection from pollution and their surrounding wildlife should be saved from hazardous plastic. More

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NONPROFIT

Building relationships key to nonprofit fundraising

'The most meaningful philanthropy happens when you have a relationship with the donor.'

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Ask around at the next group gathering you happen to attend and you’ll likely find that most everyone will agree the state’s waterways are deserving of protection from pollution and their surrounding wildlife should be saved from hazardous plastic.

Then ask them for a few dollars to help aid the cause.

You may not get quite the same response.

“That’s transactional – and political fundraising mostly is,” said Doris R. Feinberg, president of The Prospero Group LLC, a Providence business that specializes in counseling nonprofits on fundraising issues. “The most meaningful, and the deepest and most sustained philanthropy happens when you have a relationship with a donor.”

And when it is done right that means canvassing, the somewhat old-fashioned, grassroots practice of sending organizational representatives door-to-door in efforts to garner money and support for various causes.

On Providence’s East Side, Environment Rhode Island was recently canvassing for support of its campaign to make Narragansett Bay a plastic-free zone during its 2012 summer canvass.

The ultimate goal is to get Rhode Island lawmakers, during their next legislative session, to pass a bill banning plastic bags at point-of-sale purchase stations.

“Plastic doesn’t biodegrade. It makes its way to the marine environment and threatens to remain there for hundreds of years and poses a direct threat to wildlife,” said Channing Jones, an Environment Rhode Island program associate who is directing the summer canvass. “In the Northeast, there hasn’t been a lot of movement on [banning plastic bags]. It is something that’s moving on a state level [on the West Coast].”

Environment Rhode Island is a branch of the national organization Environment America founded in 2007 and based in Boston and Washington, D.C. Since then the organization – at a national and local level – has relied heavily on canvassing to build funding sources and awareness, though it also solicits donations through an online campaign, mass mailings, a major donor program and from private foundations.

It does not accept government or corporate funding.

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