Is there plenty of room on your fundraising island?

As a nonprofit leader, when was the last time you recommended another nonprofit?

enough room on your fundraising island

Plenty of room on the island

A while back, Seth Godin wrote about there being plenty of room on the island. He observed that authors regularly recommend other authors even though an MBA program would call them "competitors." It's a great reminder that most of life is not a zero sum game.

Competition isn't really competition

A new executive director I was coaching recently told me she'd been called by a potential donor. As she listened to the impact he wanted his gift to have, she realized a different nonprofit existed that more directly fit the donor's goals. So she thanked the donor, explained that another similar organization would likely be a better fit, and have him that executive director's contact information.

She knew that there was plenty of room on the island. And she was clear enough on her mission to know when a gift would be better aligned somewhere else.

Angering the board

But she was worried she'd done the wrong thing. She also knew her board might be angry with her. Especially because the nonprofit needed money.

I assured her that her actions spoke wonderfully about her character. And that she'd now moved closer to being a trusted advisor to the donor. He knew she would care about his values over her organization's potential gain. And, she just set herself apart with the other executive director.

As I recall, the other executive director really didn't know what to do when the donor called. She'd been a leader for a long time but had never had another "competing" nonprofit leader refer a donor to her.

The interesting twist

In the end, the donor decided to give to my client. He accepted the fact that this organization would use his gift a differently than he'd originally thought, but her leadership earned his trust.

So how about you? Is there plenty of room on your fundraising island? Remember, fundraising is not from a diminishing pie.

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. Great thoughts. I've learned that business is like ecology. There is competition at times, but beneficial, mutualistic relatationships are far more common than we realize!

  2. I ~love~ this story! I always say "a rising tide floats all boats."

  3. Love it, Patti!

What would you add?