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Chapter Leadership Brief 2.13.2019

Chapter Leadership Brief 2.13.2019

By Craig Shelley, CFRE, Chapter Treasurer & Managing Director, Orr Group

The recent Inside Philanthropy article “Ambitious and Risk Taking.” Explaining The Shed’s Startling Fundraising Success got me thinking about the elements of effective fundraising and if the success of the new cultural center’s fundraising was truly, “startling.”
The simple answer is yes, it is startling that a brand-new organization that has yet to open its doors has raised $488 million against a $550 million goal.  But if you start to peel back what they did, The Shed’s campaign contained all the key elements we all need for successful fundraising growth.
  • Their campaign is built on a big idea.  To attract big money, we can never simply articulate to a donor we want to do more of the same.  It is tempting to think that’s what we want or need, but even if essentially, we want our organization to continue to do the same thing, we want the money because we want something in the world to be transformed.  Telling that story and capturing the imagination of donors is imperative and The Shed has done it impressively.  Consistently it is described as new, unlike anything we’ve seen before and transformative for the New York City cultural scene.  I’m actually not even sure what it is but I know it’s those things.
  • Their campaign has dynamic leadership.  Names like Dan Doctoroff, Jonathan Tisch, Frank McCourt, Diane von Furstenberg populate The Shed’s board list.  A virtual dream team if ever there was one assembled for New York City fundraising.  And even better they are mixed in with new names that while perhaps not as recognizable represent the next generation of New York City wealth and philanthropy.  The leadership of an organization and its campaign communicates the market and sets the tone.  The Shed set a very big tone.
  • Access to leadership level gifts.  See above.  For a campaign to succeed you need access to prospects with the ability and affinity to make a gift (or gifts) that total 10-20% of the campaign total.  With the aforementioned board and the people these board members can access, this is a campaign built on access to such individuals.
The Shed’s success has been startling, or I might say remarkable, but it contains lessons for any and all fundraising campaigns.  Whether raising $100,000 or $1 billion the elements The Shed’s campaign contained and activated are the same we need to replicate, which is obviously the result of a lot of hard work and coalition building before the campaign was ever launched.
If you have ideas or suggestions for our AFP chapter please always feel free to contact me directly at  If you’re interested in my thoughts on fundraising and news in the sector, sprinkled with the occasional picture of my kids, please follow me on Twitter @craigshelley.
Thank you for everything you do.

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