Dot-Com in A Dot-Org World



As someone who has spent the last six years flying from the US, to London, to Geneva, to Milan, to Munich, to Berlin, to Amsterdam, and to Kiev, all in service of raising funds for global nonprofit organizations, I found the toughest border to cross was one that did not require a passport. I crossed from the dot-org world to the dot-com world this autumn, by creating a business to help nonprofits raise funds more effectively.

You might say—as I did—that there are many, many fundraising consulting firms in the nonprofit space. Does the world really need another? Many well-established firms are available to help nonprofits with capital campaigns, major donor giving, and prospect research. Many outstanding companies offer counsel on higher education, the arts, and faith-based organizations.

Robin Heller in Sintra, Portugal, World Ocean Summit

June 2015

But as I clocked enough air miles to circle the globe three times, I saw emerging opportunities for organizations. I saw the courage and creativity of leaders who dreamed big when it came to fundraising. I met funders who wanted to help organizations sustain their investments. And I was particularly excited about the opportunities for European and US organizations to share ideas, resources, and funds in service to their beneficiaries, their communities, and the world.

“As someone who has spent the last six years flying…I found the toughest border to cross was one that did not require a passport.”

Perhaps you also see these opportunities. The new firm focuses on helping nonprofit organizations, particularly those whose missions involve social justice, human rights, democracy, transparency and accountability, and environmental justice, to raise funds—ethically, proudly, and effectively—to sustain their missions. It is hard to raise funds to operate and grow a nonprofit. All the while, the human, political, financial, and social needs persist. But funds are available, even in challenging times: Consider:

  • UK charities could lose from 200-300 millions in EU funding in the aftermath of Brexit. They will have to identify new revenue sources beyond government and public funding.
  • US donations are on the rise. Americans gave $373.25 billion in 2015— a 4.1% increase from 2014.
  • More of the funds available in the US are going to international causes. International affairs experienced the largest giving increase from US sources in 2015, receiving 17.5% more than the prior year.

Nonprofit leaders will need to create new partnerships, engage new donors, have new conversations, and find new ways to steward donors. All in a world that seems to be closing its borders more firmly. But for any of us who envision a more just, equitable world, we know we will have to pool our resources in creative, culturally-competent ways. I’ve seen again and again that it is worth the risk. We have to broaden our fundraising “across borders,” so that funders in one time zone support the work half a world away confidently, transparently, and quickly.