How can I raise funds for an non-profit organization which focuses on organizing annual conferences and has a high net-worth individual as a founder?

It seems traditional fundraising is not an option...


Hello! Thank you for asking. My name is Humberto Valle, I'm an MBA strategist with years of successful experiences. I'm the guy new business owners call when they don't know what to do for growth.
First off, without any further information I think that the net worth of the founder is irrelevant and can be interpreted as egotistical if is seen as an issue.
The net worth is obviously a good thing to have because a non-profit, like any other new enterprise, requires an initial investment of either a TON of "sweat equity" or bit less of that plus actual capital.
Ok, now to your actual question. You failed to mention who is your market, what's the purpose of the events and what is the outreach you're hoping to engage in - so my response should be interpreted as generic rules of thumb that could apply to any given np...
1. Start with answering the criteria you didn't mention. This will help you generate a good list of possible vendors, venues, partner, and guests for these events. I know you may think that you already know who they are but trust me I guarantee 100% that you don't Right now. At least not to its full clarity and niche.
On niche; have a select group of people, a hardcore far out type of persona that you are targeting. This is important because you want their embrace meant and evangelism and if your message clicks with them you're set as long as you stay true to them and have consistency, and keep just "showing up" so that is obvious that this target, this np reflects the founding group or person.
2. Try to leverage an existing organization, this can be a business, a person, a purpose brand, a city, anything... But it would have to be one that is currently being leveraged by your niche target market... Because the whole point is to have a strategic partner that can give you access to key assets your np needs: space, people, support, exposure.
3. When marketing (in its purest meaning of talking about the np to anyone) focus on the goal, the missing, the difference your np is trying to make through its events. Don't focus on the admin, the financial, the person behind, etc.. That's irrelevant and your Weirds don't care about that. We don't care about that ever, as customers, donors, etc - we never care about that.
4. Craft a story! A story is not a short novel or a made up anecdote of why. A story in marketing is crafted through consistency and congruency of messages through out the website, social media, personal outreach, core values, core benefits, etc... If someone's comes across your ad or your website or banner or flyer.. Whatever it may be - what story will it help us create in our minds? Who of our friends are we going to think about?

I hope this helps you get started with your np and if you have any questions or want to hire me or my team for anything strategy or marketing let me know.
- Humberto

Answered 8 years ago

Hopefully I can help, i've helped over 125 start-ups raise money spanning every sector you could think of.

The first thing to note is everything has a value proposition.

In this instance you are suggesting it isn't the profitability of the company but the founder's profile that represents this value. In that case this becomes more of a marketing exercise than a fundraising exercise.

I've done part-time work for Sean Ellis' for just under a year and in that time been lucky enough to speak to some really impressive people and onboard some exciting guests to do AMA's (including Guy Kawasaki). Sean actually launched a conference that went really well, this was a profit generating exercise but the draw was him and the profiles of the speakers.

The point i'm making is you are right to single out the profile of the founder and most likely the 'cause' the organization is supporting. E.g. If it's a non-for-profit that pours Benzene into waterways you're not exactly going to have much success irrespective of the founder.

So the formula you have is prestigious founder + good cause. The good news is from my experience of dealing with 1000's of High Net Worths is sometimes returns aren't everything. It is highly unlikely our client base would invest into start-ups just for the 100x returns as most start-ups will fail, they do it because they believe in what it is trying to achieve. Simon Sinek does a pretty good Ted Talk on 'The Why'.

So some investors may just want to buddy up with the founder of the organization e.g. I would invest into the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation if I thought at their annual conference i'd get to speak to them.

If this direct approach doesn't work look at tangibles. I'm sure there are organizations that would like to be associated with your cause or your founder - can they offer up rewards or giveaways? You can then take the Red Paper Clip approach of trading up good will for tangible value supplied by corporates fulfilling CSR etc and then trade this for cash.

Equally is there an educational component to the conference? I think i've hammered the point enough, it's just to say sometimes people won't do stuff for money and that's okay just make sure you don't confuse the message and appeal to a different sense.

Answered 8 years ago

As the others have pointed out, your stated mission is a key component to the strategy of raising funds for your organization. Often, in my business, I have a non-profit partner included in the sponsorship or the ownership structure of the entity seeking funding. Non-profits open you up to a world of grant opportunities, foundational support, and government funding.
If your organization is solely focused on putting on conferences, you can raise money in educational areas, or in the target specific areas you are geared towards.
I encourage you to seek funds in your local area through regional foundations, focusing on your mission, your ability to create jobs, and the long term benefit your organization will provide to the communities you serve.
To start that process, make sure you have your mission statements, business plans, board resumes all ready in a package to send. Focus on financials, and focus on the intended outreach. Grant organizations like to get the broadest reach.
For more information, visit us at:

Answered 8 years ago

I have raised around $40MM for nonprofits and have invested 15+ years in fundraising for charitable organizations. I'm happy to share any insights that could be helpful.

as background:

I co-founded a nonprofit that had a very high-profile billionaire backing it. The net worth of the founding donor was a significant hurdle because it gave the appearance that no money was needed.

This is exactly the opposite of the for-profit sector. If this same founder were backing my for-profit company, it would attract other capital because people would see it as a great investment. In the charity space, this can be a significant hurdle.

We overcame this challenge by being very transparent In what the founders paid for and what they did not. This made donors realize that they could still make a significant impact on the organization without merely supplanting the Founder's gifts.

We also leveraged the value of being associated with such a prominent figure. That was probably something that we did not capitalize on enough, and something you should particularly focus on ... especially because you are organizing big public events.

I would especially look at developing a significant corporate giving strategy, and develop a robust sponsor package that provides them with measurable impact on their brand as well as on your organization.

Happy to talk if you have time. Either way, my best wishes to you!

Answered 8 years ago

Great question. I've raised funds in the political and non-profit worlds for years. So many non-profits I've come across tell me they can not raise funds the "traditional way." I generally strongly disagree with their view. A need for innovative tactics does not mean the basics that get you to the tactics, a strong base and a great strategy, are not needed. They are.

A non-profit organization always has to start with a case. If you don't have a strong case or mission or reason for people to give you money, whether that is through personal donations, corporate/foundations gifts or sponsorships or through registration fees, then you aren't ever going to get it.

Once you have a reason to ask, then figure out a budget and design a strategy to get you there.That means mapping what a strong board looks like and then recruiting it. Developing a target donor base, then qualifying them and going after them.

Remember when you are strategizing to think about how gifts, sponsorships and registration fees are different. Gifts rely on philanthropic instincts, and are most closely tied to a mission. Sponsorships rely on the value you can give to a sponsor - whether that is through visibility to attendees, or through association. Registration fees rely on the value you give to attendees.

You might think out of the box in terms of funding - big name speakers waiving their fees (essential a gift-in-kind donation). But I would still ground myself in the basics of fundraising. And remember the old rule of thumb still generally holds - the best person to make the ask is the person who it is hardest for the decision maker to say no to.

The only major caveat I would give you for having a high networth founder is if that founder is not involved. If the founder does not care enough to get involved, it will hurt your fundraising ability. You are better off with them not being involved.

This is not any different from funding a startup, or sales, or advocacy. Have a reason to exist, have a plan and build relationships or connections.

I am happy to talk more about your challenges and give you more specifics that would help you meet your goals.

Answered 8 years ago

Fundraising or asking for a donation is the activity to raise money for a non-profit’s specific purposes. For a successful fundraising, you need to understand what your non-profit’s goals and objectives are, and the various fundraising options that are available. It is exceedingly difficult to convince donors. Nobody wants to waste their hard-earned money on things they do not have any idea about. They might ask, “Why?” And we might not have a great answer. You can help them realize that they are contributing to a valuable cause.
1. Attract People for Fundraising: If you really want to increase the funds for your non-profit, you need to grab the attention of more and more people.

2. Research Your Donors: If you want people to truly support your non-profit cause, it is important to know your donors. You need in-depth research on the kinds of people who you want to donate to your non-profit.

3. Promote the Fundraising Efforts: After researching prospective donors and building a good image in people’s mind, the next crucial step is promoting the fundraiser. It is an easy, effective, and useful way to attract more people to donate to the cause.

4. Building your brand is difficult but not impossible: If nobody knows about your organization, how will you raise funds for the mission? You need strategic planning, time, effort, and persistence to build your own identity. No matter how talented the people you have and how good your cause is, if it is unbranded, it is of no use.

5. Inspire More Donations at Your Fundraising Events: Fundraising events are powerful ways to engage with donors, grow your community and celebrate your non-profit’s mission with large audiences.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 4 years ago

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