Geoffrey Canada has turned the Harlem Children’s Zone into what many see as a model charity by taking innovative approaches to traditional problems.
It turns out Mr. Canada approaches fund raising with the same mindset.
Mr. Canada, speaking at a recent meeting of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in New York, said the biggest challenge nonprofit leaders face today is understanding that traditional fund-raising techniques, like writing appeals, are no longer enough to bring in donations.
In a world of ideas where everyone is competing against one another, foundations and charities must have a product that will distinguish itself from the rest, he said.
Mr. Canada is president of the Harlem Children’s Zone, an antipoverty group that provides a comprehensive set of educational, medical, and social services in a 100-block area of Harlem. President Obama has proposed developing “promise neighborhoods” across the country modeled after the Harlem project.
For fund raisers who are looking to follow the Harlem blueprint, Mr. Canada suggests they focus their attention on three areas: research, networking, and advisory boards.
Rather than focusing on making staid appeals and using tried-and-true tactics, he suggests that fund raisers should instead frame their communications with what’s current. To do that, he advises fund raisers to dive into current research about key problems and find ways to connect that research to their causes.
But communicating the mission is not enough. Mr. Canada said effective fund raisers must be able to network — to build personal relationships with donors that gives them a deeper connection to an organization’s work.
Lastly, Mr. Canada stressed that for nonprofit organizations to be successful, fund raisers must have influential and knowledgeable advisory boards.
Fund raisers, he said, need to ask themselves how they can build a board that clearly understands the needs and mission of the organization.
What do you think of Mr. Canada’s advice? Are there fund-raising lessons to be learned from the success of Harlem Children’s Zone? Post a comment to share your thoughts.