Interview with a Fundraising Expert: Lisa Gray, Founder of LDG Associates
Lisa D. Gray brings over 20 years of experience in fund development that focuses on building resources for social change strategies at all levels and across disciplines. Ms. Gray’s LDG Associates is a firm that provides a variety of services, including fund development to social change entities and the organizations and institutions that support them. She currently teaches a course in Women’s Leadership at Mills College in Oakland, California.
Luke: Are you involved with fundraising right now? If so, what do you do? If not, what is your background with fundraising and what do you do now? Don’t hold back. We want to hear everything.
Lisa: Yes, I currently provide fund development services to organizations involved in social change. This includes government, faith-based, education and community organizations. We also assist with program design and vision/program goal alignment, troubleshooting and evaluation and staff and board development that moves goals forward in a way that fits with the philosophy and culture of the organization.
Luke: What was the reason you first got involved with fundraising and how did you get involved?
Lisa: I got involved in fundraising as a staff person of a small non-profit. We had a small budget and I became the person responsible for finding new opportunities.
Luke: Is there a particular strategy that has worked over and over for you?
Lisa: One of the things I’m particularly interested in is increasing Board participation in fundraising and one strategy that works is the “House Party.” It’s like the Tupperware party only for board-based fundraising. Board members invite five to ten people in their personal networks to a an afternoon or evening at their home where they talk up the organization and ask for donations. These can be themed events. You’ll want to be sure that you include information about the organization or program (like a YouTube video) and highlight beneficiaries (this works well for organizations that work with youth or adults and teach something – music, art, writing). These parties work because they are small and manageable and in some instances allow members to meet a significant portion of their fundraising goals in a one shot deal.
Luke: Out of the 1000s that are available, what are some of your favorite fundraising ideas?
Lisa: I’m really into crowdsourcing right now, using sites like Crowdrise to promote, build community and raise funds. I like it because it can be project or organization-based, it uses social media in an interesting way and it focuses on community building.
Luke: How can a small organization fundraise effectively without having any money on hand?
Lisa: Start small and use the resources you have on hand. Figure out a way to use your assets and engage your board members in the process. Use technology if you have access to it – start a Facebook page, get on Crowdrise. Remember the importance of PR – use Twitter to position yourself as a knowledgeable leader in the field. Ask others to help you – find a corporate champion.
Luke: If a group or individual were taking on a fundraising project for the first time, what advice would you give them?
Lisa: Start small, get a budget, make it manageable, use all your resources — especially people — set realistic goals, remember to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Don’t overspend.
Luke: If you were going to hire a fundraising professional, in your opinion, what talents or traits would it be most important to look for?
Lisa: Some experience actually doing fundraising, someone who understands the full range of fund development and what that is and means, a person who shares some core values with your organization, a group that is not too big and won’t lose you in the shuffle.
Luke: Do you recommend any particular books about fundraising or helpful online resources?
Lisa: I am a huge fan of the Foundation Center because it’s a one stop shop. They have all you need if you have a little time to spend and they offer great training and networking opportunities for organizations with a range of budgets – some of their classes and workshops are free.
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