Masters of the Ask-Secrets to Successful Fundraising

By Ryan Bakken
Grand Forks Herald

Cam Tweten was a fitness club manager and Brandy Chaffee was a public relations director for the Grand Forks Park District, neither with fundraising experience, when they were appointed to head the Imagine campaign to solicit the money for what became Choice Health & Fitness.

Along with an ever-growing list of allies, they raised $27 million — $3 million going for Y Family Center improvements and $24 million for the construction of the multifaceted and voluminous Choice on the city’s south end.

The money was broken down by $17 million in donations and $10 million in leases.

With more amateurs than professionals, especially in the early stages of the seven-year effort, Chaffee said campaign members adopted an anthropologist Margaret Mead quote that summarized the group’s efforts.

Mead’s quote was: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Those volunteer citizens eventually received fundraising help along the way from other sources, absorbing advice from professionals such as Kristi Mishler, executive director of the local community foundation; private consultant Jim Holdman of Grand Forks; and grassroots workers such as Rohinee Damle, who already had made a fundraising name for herself before joining the effort.

Tweten said it helped that the askers were local, even if they weren’t experts.

“When we talked to people, we already had a trust level to tell our story because we’re from here,” Tweten said. “That’s compared to an outside fundraiser who didn’t have those relationships.”

Following is fundraising advice from people involved with Choice and other fundraising efforts.

Keep beginning quiet

Holdman and son Scott operate Funding Logic, a national consulting firm that has worked with more than 300 nonprofits.

Through the Dakota Medical Foundation of Fargo, the Holdmans were enlisted to advise the Forks Area Health & Wellness Committee that led the Imagine campaign.

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