Courtney Spence on How Fundraising Strategy Shifts as Non-Profit Grows

In Chapter 13 of 19 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit executive Courtney Spence answers "How Has Organizational Growth Changed How Your Non-Profit Raises Money?"  Spence notes her progressive focus on infrastructure investment from philanthropic donors.  As her vision is progressively enabled by a supportive team and project experience, Spence shifts focus into larger fundraising and alternative revenue sourcing.  Courtney Spence returns to CYF for her Year 3 interview.  As Founder and Executive Director, Spence leads non-profit Students of the World to empower college students to use film, photography, and journalism to tell stories of global issues and the organizations working to address them.  Spence graduated with a BA in History from Duke University.


Erik Michielsen: How has organizational growth changed how your non-profit raises money?

Courtney Spence: So we’re just starting to really run with raising money and investment and it’s still philanthropic dollars but I’m now trying to raise investor dollars, I’m trying to raise money from people that wanna help me invest to my infrastructures so I can scale and I can go do the really big dream that we have. I’m not asking people to fund an organization as its existed for the last 5 years, I’m asking people to invest in where we are now so that we can grow and I think that – that is a very – a much more exciting place to come from when you’re trying to raise money, I think it’s really important to – and I didn’t really ever quite realize this to have that big vision, and have that right team in place, and have that right year one, year three, year five, even though that might change because you know it will, but having those big, you know, year markers and that big vision is really important to raising money, and I think that we are truly moving as an organization from that kind of survival mode to thrive, right, and we’re still very much trying to survive, but what I’m realizing is that as we pushed the ball forward with Students of the World the last few years, it was really still on this track.

And we’re now kind of veering off into something much bigger and greater, and as we do that, our organization grows, and as we do that we need to raise more money, and as we do that, we need to also find alternative sources of revenue, and recognize what do we have to offer this world that is of monetary value, and we believe we have quite a bit. And that’s a shift in thinking for me as well. So I am focusing on fundraising in a way that I have never before – scary.

But I’m also coming from a place of absolute confidence in where we’re going and who we’re going with and what we wanna go do, and that’s something I’ve never had before either, so I think it’s important to – you can’t force an organization to grow, it has to grow with the right time. And as much as I tried to make things happen, 5 years ago, 3 years ago, last year, the timing wasn’t right. And for some reason, the timing was right starting at about September of last year and here we are today, so.