Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet many caring people in the nonprofit sector who want to enhance their fundraising skills. Successful fundraising can make a real, material difference in the lives of all people who are served by the millions of non-profits organizations around the world who formed to solve society’s many ills. During my storied career at Opportunity Village, an organization that fortuitously lured me into the fundraising world 40 years ago I honed my fundraising craft. With a seat of the pants, take no prisoner, no is not an option approach, I had the chance to right the wrongs and with love in my heart and a real calling to revolutionize non-profit approaches to funding I raised a half a billion dollars for disability causes in Las Vegas and across the globe. I came to know that with the power of love, personal commitment, and creativity, you can do the same for the causes you hold most dear. My successes can become yours as well when you tap into your own gifts for non-profit fundraising, connecting, and changing the world.
- I Never Stop Learning
One thing I’ve learned in my fundraising career is that there’s always more to learn from the world, from our donors and from the people that we serve. The younger people in my life have helped me to embrace online writing, blogging, and social media, (Read my blog: bloggy things) and I’m proud to be able to learn from them! Whether your organization has always done things the same way, it’s worth it to open your mind and your heart to new approaches that give more people the opportunity to participate in non-profit fundraising. Never lose your confidence in your skills but stay open to all that others have to offer you; tremendous gifts may await!
- Two Words: Personal Gratitude
In this era of emailed appeals hitting your inbox daily with requests for donation, the personal touch may be more critical than ever. I often say that fundraising is about love. Love and gratitude for your donor. In fact, I became a respected fundraising executive able to bring millions to support disability rights because I developed personal, warm connections with people who were people first, not just donors. When you treat your donor like you would treat your friend you are showing them just how much you care.
- I Embrace the Possibilities
It’s always worth your time to learn and read more about others’ experiences and give yourself space and time to let your imagination run wild. When I first thought of the idea of a holiday celebration, one that would be like no other, I dreamed of a Magical Forest. A Forest in the desert, away from the Las Vegas glitz and glamor. I imagined a place where all families could come, a place that would create memories, traditions and celebrations. This germ of an idea gave birth to a spectacular fundraiser, one that would generate millions of dollars each year while connecting and educating the community to the benefits of the charity. I was able to transform that dream into a holiday spectacular that not only raises millions each year for Opportunity Village, but that is now replicated across the country and even around the world to benefit people of all cultures. What fun it is to create something that is valued by donors, volunteers and charitable organization alike. The Magical Forest is truly magical, and it has led me on a journey to help people in far-flung places. Soon I will tell you about 10,000 Santa’s and a world Santa challenge. But that is for another day. Don’t suppress your big dreams; let your instinct, your passion, your knowledge, and your skills make dreams come true for you and for millions who will benefit from your creativity and kind heart.
- I Overcame Rejection
I unlocked my unique gift of not letting a no stand in my way through my love and care for my son and my community. You see, without people like you and me, who have chosen a path of helping the less fortunate rather than chase the American dream of great wealth; the world would be much poorer. I know you’re in this field because you so care, genuinely. However, rejection is a fact of life for a fundraiser, and if you let it, it can wear you down. Instead, think of the no as the beginning of a negotiation. No now, doesn’t mean no later. It’s vital that you always protect that precious core that makes you so valuable for your cause – your deep caring, your love, and your commitment. You make the world a better place because you chose this path, you are on the side of the right and the good. Phooey on no!
Linda Smith is a fearless and tenacious non-profit fundraiser, author and motivational speaker. She is a survivor of child abuse, a philanthropist who has raised over one billion dollars for charity, and a disability advocate inspired by her son, Christopher, who was born with Down syndrome. Her incredible journey and brave heart will be detailed in her upcoming book, Unwanted.
Contact [email protected] to connect with Linda for information regarding speaking opportunities, disability resources and Las Vegas fundraising efforts.