Michele Hodges, from last week’s interview, currently serves as President of the Belle Isle Conservancy, which oversees Belle Isle, Detroit’s largest public park. A substantial part of her role is making sure Belle Isle has the resources to stay beautiful for years to come, and fundraising to gather support is how she does this. So, for her how-to, we asked if she could share her top tips to receive funding for their public projects.
1. Understand your community. “Don’t stay in your room, because nothing happens in those four walls.” The best first step you can take is to really get out there, “Be out in your community, understand your community.” The better your knowledge base is, the more understanding you’ll have on existing resources.
2. Be authentic. “There’s nothing more important than character and integrity in my mind. Authenticity and a true belief in your mission and not in money.” As you approach foundations or individual donors, keep in mind that they are asked for their support every day of the week. As Michele wisely said, “People only support what they trust and what they believe in.”
3. Create something somebody will want to be a part of. “I think you need to believe in your mission, and people will want to be a part of that. It’ll happen naturally, [when] you’re not the salesman. If you have to ask in that way, I don’t know if that’s as successful.” If your idea resonates, you’re already on your way to bringing others along.
4. Know exactly what you’re asking for. “People support where they know their money will be wisely spent.” You have to have “Ingenuity so they know by the time you’ve come to them, you’ve leveraged every other bucket. When I go to [a donor], I can say to her, ‘We’re not taking the easy way out just coming to you and [asking for] your money. We know the true gap. And everybody’s at the table with a stake and some skin in the game.’ Ingenuity will allow you to show them that they’re going to be part of something long term and sustainable.”
5. Collaborate as much as possible. “I think the donor community wants to see collaboration more often.” If you can bring together several organizations to work together to assist in your fundraising goals, you should! That way, “If a dollar is spent once it can stretch further.”
Thank you so much for your tips, Michele! Readers, wasn’t that helpful? When you’re done sharpening your own fundraising skills, come back next week for an interview with a very talented singer-songwriter.