Interview with Mary Jo Ketchum
  August 30, 2000

Should all board members be fundraisers or just those good at it?
Who determines fundraising skills, or non-skills, of board members?

The question speaks about fund-raising. In the broadest sense, yes, trustees have the responsibility to insure that their library has adequate funds to operate. As to the specific task of actively seeking funds by those who are good at it, I would like to make this observation: Besides being a trustee, I have spent the last 15 years raising money for non-profits. (I am what you would call a professional fund-raiser, although now I only work as a consultant or coach to those who do the asking.) If there is one thing I can observe about human nature in this connection, it is that the people who are "good" at fund raising are those who embrace the cause. There are skills, of course, that people can employ, and those can be passed on. But you cannot impart the passion of a person like Dolores Gugino, a former library manager in the Town of Collins, NY. She had a visceral awareness of the need for a new library in the town. After encountering her a few times, no one could fail to grasp that need. The results were evident in the groundbreaking last month, after years of an uphill battle to persuade decision makers that their wisdom for the greater good should not override a small town's need for a library. It may not be true to say that every passionate person can ask for money, but they are crucial to the decision to give.

As for determining fund raising skills, in a healthy mix of individuals who accept leadership in an organization, there are usually some who have the personality to ask for things. When the time comes to ask for money, it is not unnatural for those same people to take on that role. It is especially true when seeking donations from individuals in a town. People know each other pretty well, and from previous contact, they would be aware of potential and of supportive attitudes. So, asking is just the fulfillment step, giving the person the opportunity of doing what he or she wants to do, to be helpful. I can't help thinking of the first question in this interview, the one about how I became a trustee. The ask was just the giving of an opportunity!


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