I enjoyed sharing my nonprofit fundraising experiences with Rotary Club of Lakeway/Lake Travis on April 22, 2021. I moved to this region of Texas in February 2017 and have enjoyed it very much! Questions? Reach out anytime (email preferred).
-Rotary Club of Lakeway/Lake Travis: https://www.laketravisrotary.org/
-Rotary International: https://www.rotary.org/en
-Carolyn's Nonprofit Blog: https://carolynmappleton.com/
Rotary Four-Way Test:
1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Never Say Never:
Fundraising in Texas
Thirty years of hands-on nonprofit fundraising experience in higher education and with
nonprofits in the arts, the environment and social services across Texas.
More than $33 million raised.
Two degrees from The University of Texas at Austin, elected to The Honor Society of Phi
Appointed by Governor Rick Perry to a TCEQ commission, Texas Environmental Education
Partnership Fund Board (two terms).
Launched Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog in 2011 – more than 100 nations visit annually.
Lead volunteer organizer of Nonprofit Tech Club Austin (since 2015) in partnership with
NTEN, TechSoup Connect, and entrepreneurial hub Capital Factory in Austin. Join us!
Recently developed a nonprofit disaster preparation and recovery course with TechSoup
Global, funded by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.
Elected member of Daughters of the American Revolution with three proven ancestors (and
two more under review), Chair of the Literacy Committee of the Austin Colony Chapter.
Independent nonprofit fundraising and communications specialist based in Central Texas
working statewide and beyond.
“Rotary is where
neighbors, friends, and
ideas, join leaders, and
take action to create
A substantial portion of the nearly $2 trillion nonprofits spend
annually is the more than $826 billion they spend on salaries,
benefits, and payroll taxes every year.
Nonprofit staff members pay taxes on their salaries, as well as sales
taxes on their purchases and property taxes on what they own.
Nonprofits spend nearly $1 trillion annually for goods and services,
ranging from large expenses … to everyday purchases such as office
supplies, food, utilities, and rent.
Nonprofits have an even broader impact by creating economic
activity and jobs that ripple through the community. They can and do
have a positive impact on quality of life.
Check out the National Council of Nonprofits online,
Misunderstood Profession: Development Officer
➢ Nonprofit fundraisers have gone from an average of
3.5 years on the job in the 2000s, to only 16 months
➢ Development professionals nurture lasting
relationships. Their professional goals include bringing
donors through a meaningful life cycle, from a modest
annual donation to a deeply meaningful planned gift
(Will or estate gift).
➢ Development professionals are encouraged to adhere
to high ethical standards themselves, and they help
ensure high ethical standards on the part of their
nonprofits. Successful fundraising depends upon it.
➢ Fundraisers practice the art and craft of
grantsmanship (they should not be hired only to, “get
➢ Often today nonprofit directors view nonprofit
fundraising as a purely objective business where
emotional connection and engagement do not matter.
➢ I would argue an emotional connection is what sets
nonprofits apart and what ensures their long-term
success – you are achieving important and meaningful
Never Say Never
This presentation refers to three Texas
nonprofit major gift fundraising
experiences for the sake of example:
➢ South Texas Ranching Community
➢ Corpus Christi
Each was deemed “impossible” and
Lessons learned through the hands-on
work conducted will be shared, in the
hope you will be inspired to, “never say
➢ After several years of “regular” jobs, I
agreed to work on a two-year capital
➢ Despite well known civic leaders being
involved - including then Mayor Ron Kirk -
and assuming the groundwork had been
laid for the seven-figure fundraising
effort, I discovered the nonprofit was in a
shambles on almost every level.
➢ Prior donor records had disappeared, yet
the nonprofit had been in existence since
➢ What to do when you visit with
prospective donors who say, “I hate your
➢ Staff morale was also low.
➢ Rebuilding relationships internally and
externally was urgently required.
➢ Sometimes you must take a step back
before you can go forward. The past can
➢ A professional bi-monthly newsletter
sharing in-depth information by experts
about the mission – not only fundraising –
set high standards which helped inspire
➢ Professional photography and
experienced grant research, writing, and
documentation made a difference.
➢ Sometimes volunteers who are not
themselves wealthy have the best
contacts with prospective donors. Value
everyone. Big “names” aren’t
➢ Listen. Be creative. Donors will rise to
➢ An educational institution in South Texas wanted to raise major gifts.
But no one would move out to work in, “the middle of nowhere.”
➢ Having worked with some of the landowners in the region on nonprofit
projects in other cities, I agreed to sign-on for 3 years.
➢ I was left to my own devices (a good thing).
➢ Quiet, thoughtful research, volunteer advisory board development,
grantsmanship, professional writing, carefully orchestrated events for
philanthropists, and one-on-one calls made this a success.
➢ When you own substantial ranch property, significant financial resources
are required to manage those natural resources (and to pay taxes on it).
➢ “Out in the middle of nowhere” turned out to be a prime location for
➢ Attention to detail and regular communication with donors were key.
Expensive software packages were unnecessary.
➢ Do not expect your office colleagues - including PhD faculty – to
understand what development and fundraising entail. They can become
jealous of what they perceive as “power” without understanding the
reality of the hard work involved in successful fundraising.
Never Say Never
➢ During both campaigns, accidents and
failures happened. But also, spectacular
➢ We kept going no matter what.
➢ We learned consulting firms can talk a
good game (and charge you
substantially), with no real return on
➢ Consider using those funds to hire a
professional fundraiser on staff who will
get to know your organization deeply
and work hard for you.
➢ Major gift donors will work hard
alongside you if you staff them well.
➢ Many donors are entrepreneurs who
understand what hard work to achieve
big goals entails.
➢ Nonprofits with little or no fundraising
track record may be seen by
philanthropists as a “fresh face,” one
they might like to fund.
➢ Not only “tried and true”
organizations can secure major gifts.
➢ Expensive printed brochures are
➢ Good looking case for support
documents one can update as needed
and print in-house are terrific.
➢ Review your own mailing list and
donor database. A modest annual
contributor can become a major
donor if properly identified, educated
➢ Know your operational budget inside
and out. GuideStar profiles continue
to gain in importance.
➢ Your donors may love your nonprofit,
but their professional advisors may
➢ A world class architect for a new
museum wing. What’s not to like?
➢ Constantly escalating construction
and equipment budgets - and
disagreement among donors and
civic leaders - led to a standstill.
➢ Two prior consultants had thrown
up their hands in frustration.
➢ This was a, “never say never”
experience – a diamond in the
rough that needed polishing.
➢ Budget for more than you need just in
case. Don’t assume you will have
enough concrete, lumber, and steel
when construction begins, nor
furnishings once complete.
➢ Proper staffing will encourage and
support volunteers - it is not simply,
“up to them.”
➢ Once successful, some will take credit
even if they had little or nothing to do
with your success.
➢ Take the high road.
Never Say Never
“There are no secrets to success. It
is the result of preparation, hard
work, and learning from failure.”
Colin Powell, American statesman
Carolyn M. Appleton
Nonprofit Fundraising and Communication
➢ Website | carolynmappleton.com
➢ Email | email@example.com
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