JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: How to raise money and market your ideas

Every nonprofit agency in Bemidji and the surrounding area should have sent a representative to the recent Zoom Sunrise Rotary symposium, “Your Mission Matters,” which dealt with helping agencies raise money and market their ideas. Yes, it was that good.

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Before I share some tips about how to raise money I wish to pay a personal tribute to lifelong educator, Mark Fodness. I didn’t know Mark well but both of my children had him as a teacher.

On one occasion, when Mark was teaching about the Battle of Gettysburg, he invited his students and parents to an after school showing of the movie "Gettysburg." I accompanied my daughter to the movie at the middle school. I was so caught up in it that I used it as a teaching moment in many of my Wisconsin graduate classes. Mark’s style of teaching had a unique way of not only influencing his students but, in this case, the parents of his students as well. Thanks, Mark. You can be assured that your influence on your students will go on and on and on.

Every nonprofit agency in Bemidji and the surrounding area should have sent a representative to the recent Zoom Sunrise Rotary symposium, “Your Mission Matters,” which dealt with helping agencies raise money and market their ideas. Yes, it was that good.

I have said that organizations often spend too much money inviting outside consultants to address various groups. Thousands of dollars in fees are spent just to have someone do a song and dance and then leave. I am confident that similar expertise can be obtained in our own backyard, providing a similar message and at a fraction of the cost.

This was the case with the Sunrise Rotary Symposium on how nonprofits can raise money. Thanks to Rachel Munson, Caroline Larson, Kathryn Smith, Andrea Kent, Corey Fuhrman, Brad Olson, Kari Cooper, Lee Furuseth, Sarah Pieper and Becky Schueller for your participation as presenters. For those of you that were not in attendance I took some notes for you.


In using Facebook, try to put yourself on a schedule to use it on a regular basis, probably once or twice a week. Try to include some visuals with your posting and keep it short.

To reach a wider audience on Facebook, it does help to increase your audience by paying a small amount more to boost your message. The fees are fairly reasonable.

Millennials are more likely to use Facebook than other groups. Younger people are less likely to use it.

When fundraising, try to make use of stories especially stories that involve the people for which the fundraising is intended. Personal stories have high impact and they always gain the donor's attention. Have you noticed that politicians are using stories more to get their messages across to the public?

It always pays to review your purpose to determine if what you wish to do aligns with the mission of your organization.

Increasingly, organizations are making greater use of a “Mission Moment.” Take time when talking to boards and donors to share these all important messages. These are testimonies from people who have experienced the results of your organization. They can be young or old but people who your organization helped.

A good question to ask is, “How do you make your organization meaningful for donors?” What is it about your organization that helps donors see how it also benefits them in some way?

Organizations depend on organizations. We are all in this together. Can your message become even more potent when you partner with another organization?


The younger generation is more likely to give now, at this moment. The older generation likes a more scheduled pattern of giving, for example, once a month or at the beginning or end of the year. How can your organization appeal to both groups?

Relationships are very important in any organization. They are important internally as well as externally. Trust is a huge factor. How do you ensure trust in your organization?

At this unique time with COVID-19, more organizations were making more phone calls to touch base with donors, which some thought was better than email or Facebook.

Many donors still appreciate the hard copy that a mailing can provide.

There was much discussion on various social media platforms. Twitch is one of the newest that is preferred by many young people. Instagram is also popular and it can be linked to Facebook. Twitter is also used by many to get a message to a wider audience. TikTok and YouTube videos can also be used to attract followers. Snapchat is a medium where one uses pictures as a method of talking. With so many platforms available organizations need to explore which social media platform is best for them and use them diligently.

Never underestimate the power of your ideas. Kathryn Smith, a recent president of Bemidji Lions, talked about how a Lions ATV raffle was considered to be a real uncertainty. However, the raffle was a huge success and a check for $5,000 was given to the lucky winner. It also added significantly to the Lions’ fundraising account. The message here is be creative with your ideas and give them a try.

Riddle: The day before yesterday I was 21, and next year I will be 24. When is my birthday? (Answer: December 31; today is January 1.) Raising money always takes some creative thinking.


One unique quality about Project Graduate and its goal of 100% graduation rate is that it doesn’t cost anything. No funds are needed to tell your kids and grandkids and neighbor’s kids how important it is to graduate from high school.


John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.

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