Executive Office

The Future of Organizational Collaboration and Donor Engagement Jill O’Donnell-Tormey

G iving has changed significantly in my two-plus decades at the Cancer Research Institute (CRI). When I arrived at CRI, donors believed in our mission and were willing to make donations to do something about cancer, but were less hands-on, trusting the organization to do good. Now donors want to know what their donation accomplishes, focusing on quantifying impact and return on investment. Diversify Funding Sources We’re seeing fewer big gifts, but a larger variety of gift-giving. CRI’s most “impactful” gifts are from big donors with transformational big gifts. But I constantly worry, as most nonprofit leaders do: one large gift is great, but replicating that every year is not easy. How do you protect your organization if that one big donation doesn’t come through? A diverse platform is critical for sourcing funds. CRI constantly looks for grassroots approaches where many people give small donations and feel part of it. We try to step into people’s lives to connect with them. Unfortunately almost everybody has been touched by cancer and knows people who have gone through it.There’s empowerment in doing something. Cancer is a big issue; how can you combat it? That’s one reason for this year’s Ride to Conquer Cancer, a 150-mile bike ride which we’re hoping reaches a new population of donors. This is not only for elite riders; anyone can do this. People

like to feel that they’re really having an impact, not just giving or raising dollars, but physically doing something and challenging themselves. We hope to have hundreds of riders our first year, and raise lots of money and get the word out that CRI is developing revolutionary immunotherapy treatments for cancer and giving people hope. You need a diverse funding base. You could rely simply on lots of small donations, but you also need big donations. Bridge the gap from where you are to where you are headed by telling the organization’s stories. Do this by talking about the programs that are in place to accomplish your mission. Create Strong Corporate Partnerships Loyal donors, the lifeblood of your organization, must be maintained and sustained, but expand beyond them. How can you expand in corporate giving? Many organizations 30 years ago saw no potential in partnerships with corporate entities, other than soliciting big gifts. Now, organizations like CRI are finding ways to work with corporations, like pharmaceutical companies, that are working on problems similar to ours. The future of partnerships between corporate entities and nonprofit organizations quite likely will shift and nonprofits need to be adaptable. We’ve developed a clinical accelerator collaboration that is a win/win for both sides, through a clinical strategy that allows us to

24 I Nonprofit Professional Performance Magazine

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