Courtney Spence on Innovative Ways to Finance a Non-Profit

In Chapter 13 of 15 of her 2010 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit executive and Students of the World founder Courtney Spence answers "What have you found most challenging about nonprofit fundraising?" Spence discusses what she has learned raising money to finance her organization. She emphasizes limiting the time soliciting funds given the organization is built on its storytelling, not fundraising strength. She also positions the capital raising process with outsiders as an investment that comes with returns and not a charitable gift. After years learning from these experiences, Spence is now pushing to identify sustainable revenue sources to develop and expand her efforts.


Erik Michielsen: What have you found most challenging about nonprofit fundraising?

Courtney Spence: I like to joke that I’m in the nonprofit world, really heavy on the non-profiting side of things. It’s challenging, I think, you know, I’m hopeful that the nonprofit sector or the social sectors, which I think it should be called, can find ways to be more innovative about the way that we fund ourselves because we do provide such an added value, such service in some ways that the private sector or the government cannot. At the same time it’s very ironic that organizations, whether they report it or not, will spend fifty to eighty percent of their time doing something they’re not in the business to do. I mean granted, I understand you have to fund raise to be a nonprofit but – what we do is tell stories through media, like we don’t raise money for organizations.

At first it was hard for me to understand the difference of asking people for money and asking them to invest in the organization, we’re not, we’re not asking for a hand out, we’re not asking for charity even though that’s what it is, but we’re asking for people to invest in the idea, in these young people, in the organizations we work with and invest in the idea of the power of media to affect positive change. That’s pretty powerful, asking people for a donation isn’t. So, it’s understanding where you are, being confident in why you’re asking for money or why you need it because that is the way that nonprofits are structured but also for us right now it’s challenging ourselves to how can we find more sustainable, kind of, smarter sources of revenue because I believe in the power of what we provide.