The Long Raise

I’ve been chairing a $40 million capital campaign for NYC’s CS4All effort to bring computer science education to every school and every student in the nation’s largest school district.

We are just into year four of the ten-year CS4All effort and we are also into year four of the capital campaign.

The good news is I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Depending on whether you count “soft circles” or not, I think we have about $10 million left to raise.

We started out with a bang, announcing $11.5mm in contributions, including those of my wife and me, at the start of the effort.

Year one went well, with another roughly eight million raised.

Year two was a struggle and year three started out similarly. We made some changes to our team and strategy and message and the second half of year three was much better and we are entering year four with great momentum.

I have learned a lot about running a capital campaign or any sort of large and long fundraising effort and I thought I would share some of the big lessons:

1/ You have to be patient. It is a marathon, not a sprint. No matter how much you want it to go quickly, it won’t.

2/ Cultivation is the name of the game. You have to work the top prospects slowly and carefully and patiently. Most eventually come through but you need to invest a lot of time and effort without any certainty of closure. I found this particularly hard as I always want to be investing my time where it is going to pay off.

3/ You need people around you who are experienced fundraisers. There is an art AND a science to qualifying, presenting, and following up that the best people in the fundraising business understand and bring to their work. Without that, you are going to flounder.

4/ Communicating and engaging your donors is critical. I thought a donor would write one check and be done. It turns out many donors like to start small and grow their committment over time as they see progress and get comfortable with the effort.

It turns out that raising a big sum of money is like a lot of other things in business and life. Slow and steady is a virtue, great people make all of the difference, your best prospects are the people you have already closed, and frequent communication fixes a lot of problems.

I think all of these lessons I have learned in the last three years are applicable to raising capital for your business. Fundraising is a process not a campaign and it needs to be part of a CEO’s daily cadence and calendar.

You are never not raising money when you are running a company or any sort of business endeavor that requires capital, which is basically everything.

#entrepreneurship#hacking education#hacking philanthropy#life lessons#management

Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    And raising for the first time is even more difficult, because potential investors will doubt you as their starting position.

  2. Joe Marchese

    Great summary for keys to a lot of business: “Slow and steady is a virtue, great people make all of the difference, your best prospects are the people you have already closed, and frequent communication fixes a lot of problems.”Great one, Fred.

  3. awaldstein

    Fundraising is really hard for non-profits and this is a good pointer to remember.For broader, smaller campaigns they still do it the same one on one way and it is replete with friction. Got to be a better way.

  4. amitsomani

    While there are a lot of similarities in fund raising for a cause or for your business/find, since you have been on all sides of all tables, what’s different?

  5. Pointsandfigures

    #3 huge for non-profits in particular.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      So true. A small non-profit I’m on the board of right now is struggling with finding people to help us do this. It’s a catch-22: we don’t have the money to pay for top talent yet we need top talent to get the money.

      1. K_Berger

        If you have someone who isn’t “top talent” but has potential, and wants to get there, there are some consultants out there who can make a real difference. Put together a plan, key tips for success, tracking tools, etc. I have seen this work several times.

  6. Adam Sher

    Fundraising for non-profits seems like a thankless task. You have to have a very long-range perspective.

    1. LE

      I wouldn’t call it a thankless job I’d call it a sales and selling job. And the time horizon actually feels not that long to me. To me sales that plays out over 10 years or longer is long. Something over a few years is not. In fact in a way that’s good maybe.Read these two articles:

      1. Adam Sher

        Apparently there are thanks. About $500,000 – $1M in thanks. Thanks for sharing the articles.

        1. LE

          This is a job that I could totally do no question if I had the time.

      2. Susan Rubinsky

        Thanks for these articles!

  7. sigmaalgebra

    CS4All: 1/ – 4/ never made clear just WHY CS4All should happen.Lots of people drive cars; only a small fraction understand auto repair, and a much smaller fraction, mechanical and auto engineering.Lots of people use electricity; only a small fraction understand enough to be an electrician, and a much smaller fraction, electrical or electronic engineering, Maxwell’s equations, control systems, etc.Now likely in NYC, nearly everyone uses computers as smart phones, games, the Internet, etc.; only a small fraction know how to write such software, and a much smaller fraction, computer science.Maybe, as for cars and electricity, enough people in NYC already know enough about “computer science” appropriate for everyone.For more, the standard stuff is(A) Computer architecture, data representation, data types, standard procedural programming language data structures and control structures.(B) Programming language syntax, compiling, and linking, Data structures and algorithms.(C) Database and data communications.(D) Computational time and space complexity, especially the question of P versus NP.(E) Current research directions, e.g., machine learning.But for machine learning, quickly we see from the David Rosenberg course via Bloomberg how weak that stuff is.So, for (A)-(E), what’s to bother with in high school?For a career in programming, apparently the main criterion is just to have good facility with the latest, buggy, poorly documented, hot, hyped software tools, but this stuff is tough to teach, where it’s tough to find teachers, and ages like butterflies.Broadly, education is serious stuff, for individuals, the schools, and our society. We need to think carefully about what we should do in the schools. Eventually, with enough in good education, a person, e.g,, a research professor, can continue on well without formal courses in school. And with the Internet, PDF files, YouTube, etc., we could guess that lots of people could learn well without formal education; alas, this guess is too often wrong because there is a lot of total junk content out there that would waste the time of people trying to learn. E.g., some of the stuff at Khan Academy is just awful. The best at Wikipedia is quite good, but there is too much of the rest.Generally we should be especially careful about the content in K-12.Added:Did a Google search on CS4All. There is a LOT there:(A) The Web sites are well done with a lot of links to more.(B) The BoD is amazing: There’s next nothing in computing and its education that the BoD can’t just reach out and grab.(C) There is an impressive range of high end, blue chip funding, from NSF to family foundations, etc.(D) There is top level political support in NYC from the Mayor on down.So, with (A)-(D), SOMETHING good should happen eventually!All of (A)-(D), the project looks like work in progress. E.g., apparently the courses for grades 10-12 are still TBA!It does look like so far the emphasis is on games, robotics, toys, JavaScript, Web sites, some Python, some graph drawing, etc.It appears, a mixed situation, that there is a lot of emphasis on students doing individual projects.I would guess that by now the US would have several well considered K-12 curricula all nicely designed, tested, presented, etc. — it appears that this guess is not close to correct. Surprising.It appears that the whole program, K-12, students, teachers, leaders, etc. is caffeinated by the excitement, thrills, romance, lifestyles of the rich and famous — Gates, Page, Brin, Zuck, Bezos, etc. — of US information technology. Okay, that’s not all bad!Or, excited is better than bored, and what’s to be more excited about than the future of information technology?But some fundamental challenges remain:(A) Where the heck is information technology going? Or, what is the next big thing?(B) What should be taught in information technology, computer science, etc. K-12, college, graduate school, trade school, etc.?(C) What should the research be in computer science, its teaching, its business applications, etc.?We don’t have good answers to this list (A)-(C). Lack of good answers didn’t stop Gates, …, Bezos. So, maybe if there are some good answers possible, they will be found by entrepreneurs, researchers, whatever.Getting on the field doesn’t guarantee winning. But got to be on the field, got to be in the game, got to try, to win. And if there are big wins to be had, then all this excitement, hype, whatever, getting a lot of people on the field might help, is necessary, maybe will be about the best can be done, maybe will be sufficient.My main guess remains: The crucial core of information technology, computer science, and the most valuable applications remains applied math, generally beyond what is in the university computer science departments.

  8. LE

    You have to work the top prospects slowly and carefully and patiently. Most eventually come through but you need to invest a lot of time and effort without any certainty of closure.Interesting because most selling is not typically ‘most eventually come through’.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Most of my client base comes from relationships nurtured over time. Often, in bidding situations, I am not the low bidder but I am almost always short listed. When I come in to present, I often find that I was short listed due to my unique pitch in my proposal. When I don’t get selected and ask why, the organization tells me that my price was too high. I always keep the door to that relationship open after that because, inevitably, the low bidder almost always underperforms/underdelivers. Then I get the phone call 1-3 years later to come in a repitch. I almost always land not only that project but future projects with the same client. The client, at this point, understands my value. But the client also had to go through a painful experience to understand my value. From there, I tend to keep my clients for the long term. The only time I loose them is when a new lead executive comes in and wants to bring his/her new people in.

      1. LE

        I wish more people would tell stories like this (obviously it is what I do).Can you quantify what you mean by ‘price was too high’?Btw I have found it common for people who charge a high price to make statements such as ‘my price is higher but’ or ‘you can find a cheaper price or a less expensive vendor but’. My personal opinion is that is a mistake in selling to do so. Not an absolute (nothing is and everyone’s style is different it’s art) but that is how I view it.Also it would be interesting to see if the price was the real reason. You’d have to agree that it is always easy for someone to use a reason like that (even perhaps as a negotiation ploy) rather than tell the truth. Nobody every balks or feels bad for that reason (for example you and many wear it as a badge of honor, right?).The client, at this point, understands my value. But the client also had to go through a painful experience to understand my value. How do they know your value if they never used you and if they stated a reason in the first place such as ‘your price was to high’? In the initial pitch I would have to assume that you then quantified what they were getting for the money in a way that they realized later that they needed one of the things that you did that others didn’t do.

        1. PhilipSugar

          I think it is perfect to say upfront I am not going to be the low cost and if that is what you want, we’re not a fit. Perfect. Because if you are not, you are not. In sales it is called the “takeaway” VERY strong tactic if you are confident and have swagger.Absolutely never done by people that don’t have those. People sense it immediately. Better to put it out there in front instead of responding back….let me see what I can do.I think Susan is right on.

          1. LE

            I think the devil is in the details. For example let’s say you have the following:1) You have the type of buyer who is able to and has been conditioned to pay for quality and thinks that way. You, me, JLM.Retail example: I was just in REI and bought a messenger type bag. It was $79. Sold on Amazon for the same price. I liked it and it was obvious that it was better than some $20 alternative that I could have gotten somewhere else (or on Amazon there are tons of these). The secret sauce is the anti theft. Because it was at REI I figured I was overpaying in some way but was cool with that. My point is it would have deprecated the product (and the buying experience) for the salesman (and I know we aren’t talking retail sales here but will illustrate with this) by saying ‘there are cheaper alternatives’.…Meaning when dealing with a high end buyer or a sophisticated buyer (purchasing agent) it’s actually demeaning to say that I feel. Say you are selling to JLM who like you and I buys quality and knows quality. Do you think he or we needs someone who is giving a price on a new kitchen or house addition to say ‘you know I am not the cheapest’. Once again the exact situation matters obviously. If you go into a Porsche or Lamborghini dealership it would be an insult to tell a prospect ‘there are cheaper alternatives’. My point is you just have to be careful when doing this because it could backfire.I don’t know if it’s true or not but I thought I had read that IBM never even acknowledged the competition at all. Not that that matters to me or is why I feel this way but there is truth to never doing that. Once again I think one of the biggest mistakes a company can make when selling is answering any question with ‘who are your biggest competitors and why are you better’. Not good to answer. You have just told your prospect who else they should consider if they didn’t know about them. Once again this is why people can’t read books. There is no way to qualify any statement with all the exceptions or specifics to any rule. Maybe sometimes it does pay to mention the competitor it all depends.Now if they know about or raise the issue of alternatives then obviously fire away and say why you are better.That said it is perfectly acceptable to follow up with a prospect before they close with someone else and try to make them realize they are making a mistake but in very specific terms. Not in a general ‘you get what you pay for’. That sounds like stupid network news. Last night doing a story they said the very similar ‘as always if it sounds to good to be true it probably is’.One other thing. I think someone in sales should never assume that a person who is a potential client cares about cost in the same way as anyone else or even themselves.In the example I typically give is that if a woman wants to buy a fur coat you don’t tell her she can get a cloth coat for cheaper. She might be very happy and doesn’t want her buzz killed by even considering alternatives.Remember your story about the wood at the back of your house you told here? About how they told you the wood was to strong and you didn’t need it. That I think iirc you were overdoing it. Now you powered through that and ended up buying the better wood but that is because that is you. Most people would have thought ‘wow I am stupid they are making me feel stupid I better go with the less expensive alternative’. So maybe part of my point is by saying ‘we aren’t the cheapest’ you drive someone to question whether they need to pay for something that is better.

          2. PhilipSugar

            I hate the “who are your competitors question” Hate it. You figure it out. It is like saying well who else have you dated?

          3. LE

            Exactly. However have to tell you that when I used to buy equipment or even buy other things now it is a great shortcut. Back prior to google it was super important to get those answers.Look the internet changed everything. I remember the first time in the 90’s when I saw sites linking out to other sites. I thought ‘if you had a retail store you don’t make it easy for people to leave the store you want them to stay and be trapped’.

          4. JLM

            .It is a very subtle thing. I was just at the Lexus dealer putting new plates on my wife’s new car. The entire experience could not have been better.We drive up, tell the guy why we’re here.”Go inside and get a drink,” he says.There is a complete Starbux quality coffee bar inside plus computers. It’s 113F outside. The A/C is cool.Ten minutes later, the kid finds me and say, “New plates are on the car, sir.”We leave.Now, I negotiated firmly with the dealer, knew the right price, and got very good service. I was out of town when the car was ready and they held it for a week on the strength of a $1,500 credit card deposit. They were no nonsense.The entire experience was first rate.I hate buying a foreign car, but I was not the decision maker.JLMwww.themusingsdofthebigredc…

          5. LE

            I will tell you a funny story. When I first started renting out property I was so good with tenants. Very responsive Johnny on the Spot catering to all their needs. I then found out that it’s like the bathroom. When you gotta go you gotta go. Meaning all of that only nominally mattered to people. When they needed to move to bigger space or had some other reason to go they did. All that work and attentiveness didn’t matter. The only place it mattered was with realtors referring business that could claim that I was a great landlord. But a spiff to them would take care of that with less cost and effort. Not sure it is the same with the large buildings you did. But that is what I found. Maybe with what you did Class A it was a case where it paid off in reputation that brought in better tenants and higher rent. But in my end of the market not the case. (Class B).The reason is obvious. There is a high barrier to moving. People duh don’t want to move. You’d have to be really shitty to get them to decide to move not just ‘not great’. My daughter has this as well in NYC. The market is soft there. Her landlord raised the rent slightly. The increase was iirc $60/month on a $3000/m apartment. Of course she paid it and she is not going to move over $60. And if she is moving she is moving. They are an ok landlord and own multiple properties all over NYC. Sure if they are really good they might get referrals from tenants. I think they are good enough to get that just not being jerks. So what is the point of putting in the extra effort in that case? It’s wasted money. Also they advertise in the NY Times so they have a flow of business that is predictable and lower cost than bending over backwards with tenants. At least that is my read.

          6. JLM

            .In commercial real estate – high rise CBD – you are signing 10-25 year leases with firm renewal options. The relationship is very, very important.When it comes time to sell a building, it is sold subject to the “encumbrances” meaning the leases. Each lease has to issue an Estoppel Certificate stating the lease is in full effect and current.I have seen big deals go into the ditch because a landlord-tenant dispute worked its way into the Estoppel Certificate.Sometimes, when you have a low priced renewal option, you want to get rid of a tenant because the market rent is so much higher than the renewal price. You might even buy a tenant out of their remaining lease term.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          7. LE

            When I graduated college I was offered two jobs which I passed on.One was with Coldwell Banker which had just opened up their first east coast office for commercial real estate (I can still smell the carpet in the office quite different than my Dad’s wholesale district office). I had worked for them during the summer along with 10 other college students. They all wanted jobs but I was the only one they offered.Then was offered by a college instructor that was also a home builder a job to learn the business.Passed on both because I promised to help my Dad (but never did the business split).Oh well. Right time early 80’s.

          8. PhilipSugar

            Many times the people doing the work cannot afford to have that kind of work done for themselves and therefore project their thoughts on you.And actually the same goes for software. You call my number hit 2 and you will get a person. Not a crappy person, a college educated super knowledgable person. That costs money. People don’t get that. Sure we actually have a contract with DXC but they are so bad we maintain our own desktops, networks, and phone.You see it here: It should be open source, it should be free!! Hey fine you are the product, but try and get a person on the line from Google. Good luck.Sometimes they get it, but many times they think if I was doing this on my house here is how I would do it. Sure the difference between CPVC and PEX or cheap PVC versus Schedule 40 is maybe $300 of parts, but if you don’t value your labor that is $300. And you don’t care if you have to redo it. If you are paying $120/hr for labor (and that is not unfair, you have a truck, you have tools, you have a shop, insurance, inventory, clerical staff, and he comes with an apprentice) and you never want to deal with it again, it is a great value.Sure it’s $5 to $10 more for a really good quarter turn for your toilet versus the crappy twist ones, sure the stainless is $5 more. Sure the better toilet costs $60 more. So let’s say I paid an extra $75. I paid $120 to get it installed. But the difference is priceless. Looks better works, better, and most importantly I don’t have to deal with it again.

          9. LE

            I am not going to be the low cost and if that is what you want, we’re not a fitAnother issue I have with this is it frames the sales person as wanting to not waste their time (even when it’s phrased as ‘waste your time’ which it is never about obviously).Do I think salespeople don’t quality and are stupid and waste their time? Absolutely. But a good salesperson will exit stage left gracefully and not make someone feel bad or unqualified to deal with their company in some way.Another example I called a company to build a carport outside. They could have very easily given me some numbers over the phone rather than coming out and wasting time. After coming out and going over details for some time the salesman estimator told me the price and I thought ‘no way I don’t need it that much’. So he didn’t qualify me which he could have done over the phone by just quoting a range of prices independent on the actual situation going on at the job site. Better yet he could have easily done a google street view and seen that with the township zoning you couldn’t easily build a car port on our driveway.And I am taking into account the fact that maybe they are cool with coming out for the prospect of getting work later on. Unfortunately giving someone a high quote is not the way to do that.

          10. PhilipSugar

            This is a salesperson that worries about activity, not accomplishment. Again no swagger, just trying to look busy. I used to answer the sales line. I would always give a ballpark. A quick no is better than a maybe. Every time. Every time. The maybe turns into a no.

          11. LE

            The company does quality work actually. It’s the real deal. I think the son in law does the sales. He knows construction. But he’s a real dolt.This was a guy that I got a price from years ago on an office kitchen.You know what he said? He actually told me that the price was higher because they charge (I think it was) 5% for their advertising cost. Yes he did say that. He actually told me that. And he said it w/o even thinking it was stupid to say.But because they do good work they can have ‘leaks’ like that and still manage to get business and be profitable.

        2. JLM

          .In high rise office buildings, the pros have a pricing list which is based on the market plus an upcharge for the view and the height.The most effective words I ever used to peddle space were, “This is a very high floor with a spectacular view. May not be within your budget. We’ve shown it a couple of times this week.”I would get people cursing at me, “God damn it, I can afford anything. Show me the damn space.”I cannot tell you the number of times I got more than $5/SF more for the lease rate than the proforma.You are not selling “something” to someone. You are selling TO someone. In every sale, you can create an element of instant gratification.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. sigmaalgebra

            Good. Kept. Thx!

          2. PhilipSugar


        3. Susan Rubinsky

          I don’t use that “I’m expensive” tack, though I do know from debriefings that I am often among the high bidders. I charge what I think my value is and am always fiddling with the formula to find the ceiling of what people will pay for my services.

          1. PhilipSugar

            My advice is worth what you paid for it. I think you should. If you are you should acknowledge and say here is what you get. If you can’t say that clearly then you shouldn’t be more expensive.

      2. JamesHRH

        Everyone seems to have missed your point that it is not worth buying a deal and it is much more valuable to let the buyer educate himself on pricing and likelihood of delivery.

        1. PhilipSugar

          I don’t think people missed it. It’s how to sell it. Very important. You can choose what you want to be, but if you do that it doesn’t matter if you can’t sell it. Nothing happens until something gets sold.How much better is that Lexus than the Camry? Now how much better is the experience?I totally respect Toyota. They love making cars. They are willing to sell you a Corolla for $15k a co-worker has one. It is a great car. She commutes something like 150 miles a day. It runs like a top. Back seat totally fine, her last one had 250k miles until she hit two deer. Yes that happens in the country, she set off something like four airbags, but walked away unscathed from a 65mph accident.They also will sell you a high end Lexus. A co-worker has one. An old retired guy comes with a new one with a vanity plate (I know they are trying to upsell) takes his for all service (including oil changes). We actually know the guy because if he is in a meeting he simply gives the key and takes the key.

          1. JamesHRH

            No, I really think you at least partially missed her point.Sure, nothing happens until a sale is made. But Susan could chase deals, cut her price, hate the project and screw up her entire business ( and her enjoyment of her business).Its great to see that she doesn’t – that she knows she wants to be / is a Lexus, not a Toyota.

          2. PhilipSugar

            We will let her decide… 🙂 My point is simply this. Many people don’t decide.

          3. JamesHRH

            And on both of those points, we agree. 😉

        2. Susan Rubinsky

          My one short comment is that I’m an independent consultant. I’m not in business to build a big company. I’m in business to find great clients that I can work with for the long term. I often get extremely busy so I can afford to go for the no. I don’t have time to waste educating people who are not ready yet to understand. I prefer to let those potential clients learn on their own while I go off and work on great projects with great clients.

      3. Susan Rubinsky

        I just saw this whole thread. Don’t have time to respond today. I will revisit this either tonight or tomorrow.

      4. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        A great but pricey headhunter I know asks new potential clients the bizarre – “what is your return on recruitment?” – Not to expect an answer, but to love the ones that think about how you might frame the calculation – If they know recruitment is tough business (and they do) – it’s business now or later.I wonder if you could spin a variation on this.

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          I absolutely love this tack. I would definitely respond to this question if asked during a client presentation or an interview….I once was asked, “What is your favorite book and why?” and I answered “Grapes of Wrath” and then talked about how Steinbeck foretold the dehumanization of big agriculture and it’s impacts on society.I also was asked by the same interviewer, “What is the most difficult thing you have faced in your life personally and how do you think it has impacted your life professionally?” I responded at length about growing up with alcoholic/abusive parents and that because of it I learned, early on, how to find my own inner strength and live and act in a way that was in accordance with my values, not my circumstances.(I was also asked about my favorite film and why, to which I responded Chinatown and launched into a similar analysis that I did about Steinbeck.)After I got the job, I asked the COO why he had hired me. I had been quite truthful about my childhood and it’s impacts on my life and thought for sure that I had screwed up the interview. However, the COO said that my response to those two questions was exactly why he hired me. This was many, many years ago when I was younger and didn’t completely understand my own strengths (and weaknesses). He was impressed with my analytical skills in regards to Steinbeck and Chinatown and my perseverance in response to my childhood circumstances.Only a recruiter/company who knows what they are seeking can craft questions like that to elicit responses that make or break the deal. I can imagine a lot of people would just give a short one sentence response.

      5. Holly Hester-Reilly

        Thanks for sharing this, Rebecca! I’m only 1.5 years into my boutique consultancy so don’t have the long view yet. It’s great to hear from someone who has been there!

    2. cavepainting

      yeah, nothing ever comes through on its own. Each opportunity needs to be nurtured carefully — not pushing too hard while not being passive, not stretching the truth while still creating interest and excitement in the prospect, and do all this with patience without naïveté and a certain amount of street smartness without tipping over to cunning.These lines are damned blurry and there are very few, if any, who have not crossed these lines willfully or unwittingly.

  9. LE

    We started out with a bang, announcing $11.5mm in contributions, including those of my wife and me, at the start of the effort. Year one went well, with another roughly eight million raised. Year two was a struggle and year three started out similarly.In addition to you being busy and having your hand in so many pots (hence more impatience would be typical) it sounds like you were disadvantaged by the fact that things started off with a bang.I call this ‘a lever’. That is, any event that happens early (good or bad) tends to influence your thinking as to what should happen next but unfortunately in a magnified (‘the lever’) way. Someone might know the textbook way of saying this I don’t.For example I remember when I moved into an office years ago. It was right next to a school sports field. On the first day a kid came over (with parent) and asked to use the bathroom. I thought ‘oh wow is this going to be happening every day???’. I was really worried ‘geez who would think being next to a sports field I’d have that problem!’. Well it never happened again. Over a decade. But that is not what I thought because it happened on the first day. If it happened 2 mos. later I would have never had any concern.In your case the fact that you had no experience with this and had a great first year gave you an unrealistic view (according to my theory) of what to expect long term.We made some changes to our team and strategy and message and the second half of yearPerhaps the initial period (and team) simply did well because of the low hanging fruit that was picked. Or time of year or a host of other factors that you didn’t take into account.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Short, Easy, Explanation: At time zero, the thingy is zero. Then really soon it’s way up. Sooooo, do an intuitive fitting and extrapolation, look for, expect, assume, believe in a trend, and guess that the thingy is rising quickly and next time will at least be higher, maybe much higher!Alas, in the real world, case by case, but much the same from 50,000 feet up, with just a little inspection and consideration, considering some details, there is likely much more to the dynamics than just the simplistic “trend” assumption.E.g., the first time it’s new, to borrow from a movie, “a whole new thing”.No doubt the machine learning and AI people are eager to make the world awash in software that does such trend nonsense. For progress, the AI might get to be able to read the scowls on the faces and the deep, pained voices when the first donation is given and keep that in mind for the second effort!”Machine learning”, “artificial intelligence”, to borrow from a movie, “There’s a contradiction in terms!”.Could also throw in “computer science” as a special case of the general remark “any field that calls itself a science isn’t”!

  10. jason wright

    yesterday morning i went out riding my bicycle through the city. i took my usual route, which includes a section of shared bicycle/ pedestrian pathway that runs between the hospital and the university. the path’s not well looked after by the council. it’s neglected by the council. grass grows across it from the verge on one side. so yesterday there’s a cycling guy there taking it upon himself to side up the edge of the pathway with his own garden spade. he’s there with his bike, gear, helmet, et.c. and his spade cleaning up the mess that the council fails to do anything about. that’s non-profit. that’s the spirit of a positive human contribution to the common good. governments and councils take our taxes and erode that spirit. as you may know i have little time for institutions of authority. they are part of the problem. that cyclist is part of the solution. not everything requires financial capital. other forms of ‘capital’ are far more important.

    1. Michael Elling

      Was walking behind someone smartly dressed in NYC the other day. Ahead of us someone knocked a chained bike off its axis and it swung perpendicular to everyone’s walking path; half blocking the sidewalk. The fellow in front jumped to the side, as did others, and initially moved to adjust the bike. But then he jerked his hands back and kept on walking. That surprised me as my heart initially leapt up as I observed his initial reaction. I righted the bike and kept on walking. I wondered what made him change his mind. There are those with spades; but many others without.

      1. jason wright

        the internal first thought verses external second thought conflict. we all know what that feels like. i think it’s based on fear.

    2. John Fitzpatrick

      That’s beautiful, but it’s not reliable, and it doesn’t scale. A neighbor and I maintain a small park near where I live. It’s just a third of an acre, and this is our 10th year. We’ve planted trees and built flower beds, and at first we had others involved, but now it’s just the two of us. I’ve had kids since we started, so my time is a lot scarcer. (My six-year-old is at a point where he eagerly contributes, but he’s had enough after about an hour.) It’s hard to keep up with just the weeding, and this weekend I worked in the park but didn’t have time to mow my own lawn. I’d much rather the city took care of it, but the Parks Department has been decimated by budget cuts, and all they can manage is mowing and weed whacking. Don’t get me wrong–civic involvement is beautiful and rewarding and all, but it can only serve as supplement to government, not as a replacement.

      1. JLM

        .20% of the people do 80% of the workIt is the curse of everything, but it will pay a dividend one day. Your children will remember who you were and what kind of man you were. They will be the same.Well played.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. K_Berger

          While the 80/20 rule is almost universally true, or close enough to do the job, I heard something astounding the other day while planning strategy for a non-profit.Currently, in higher education, 5% of donors give 95% of funds.

          1. jason wright

            80% of wealth controlled by 20% of people, or probably even more extreme.

          2. JLM

            .For several years, I sat on the board of the foundation of a public college. I was astounded at how generous grads were, but I suspect you are correct.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  11. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:This post is certified as Platinum.Not all posts are equal but the detail of this post provides a look intowhat is required to even reach the level of responsibility and accountabilitythat Fred outlined.This blog needs more of this and less of the mundane.Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

  12. Michael Elling

    NYC’s digital access for the students outside the schools is a much much bigger issue; both in terms of providing a greater pool of potential computer scientists and for the broader curriculum as well. Fred, are you in a position to help solve that?

  13. karen_e

    No link to CS4All with your final CTA? 🙂

  14. Richard

    Speaking of fund raising, Nathaniel Reed died in a fishing accident. For those who do not know of his great work as an environmentalis and as a role model for how to use wealth, it’s all available via your favorite search engine.

  15. Kyle

    So many comments about the Fundraising strategy. Yes, there are good insights. My take- Thank you Fred Wilson for helping to increase access to basic CS education for all kids and continuing the courageous journey to fix our terrible, inefficient, and unequal education system.

  16. brittblaser

    In the 1970’s, I was privileged to serve as a parent/development director of Colorado Academy. The most important insight was that fundraising is really friend-raising. The friends-first funds-later principle applies to business.18 months of prep produced a 15-second exchange at a hockey game. Jerry McHugh told Bill Coors, “I’ll give $300,000 for the new field house if you will.””Sure.”

  17. sigmaalgebra

    After looking at the CS4All Web sites, IMHO here is an easy way to make the CS4All MUCH, MUCH better:(1) It remains, for K-12, MUCH more important than anything in computing are the traditional 3Rs. No joke. No doubt. No contest. Or, “No, Joe. No way. You can’t play with computers, robots, or social networking until you have your lessons in reading, writing, and arithmetic all DONE, WELL, TODAY.”.(2) The MAIN use and activity for computing in K-12 is JUST to aid learning in the traditional 3Rs — READING for understanding, say, materials on the Internet, e.g., some of Wikipedia, WRITING well constructed essays and term papers, using computing for the word whacking, and doing NUMERICAL processing of data to produce numbers, tables, and graphs to make points in the term papers.

  18. Women make the world go 'round

    You wrote…”Communicating and engaging your donors is critical. I thought a donor would write one check and be done. It turns out many donors like to start small and grow their committment over time as they see progress and get comfortable with the effort.”I am incredulous. Are you serious? Really? I am shocked and baffled you made such an assumption. I don’t mean to insult you but that is one of the most unsettling assertions of yours I have read on this blog. It makes me seriously question your financial acumen.It also suggests that you are probably overworked and overly stressed and therefore need to sleep more, eat better, and generally take better care of yourself. Sometime within the last year or so when I read you bragging on this blog that your wife makes you do the dishes I thought, “No, no, no!”Do you encourage the CEOs of your portfolio companies to vacuum their office carpets and take out the trash each night? Of course not. That would be a waste of their precious time. You wife should take better care of you. Your wife should make sure that you take a hot bath after dinner and get to sleep early. Many wives don’t take care of their husbands properly. Those wives often either end up caring for an invalid or becoming widows much sooner than they might have imagined. It’s no secret that typically a man without a wife to care for him properly is headed for serious problems.I presume that donors (other than small donors giving, say $50 or $100 just one time) are just like VCs: they have money but they also have brains. Donors would naturally want to see results, just like VCs. Just like VCs have seed rounds, series A rounds, series B rounds, etc I presume all but the smallest donors typically donate in tranches unless they are, say, fools who just inherited a windfall or on their deathbeds.After all, I presume most medium to large donors have been burned in the past when they have donated money that seemingly went “up in smoke.”

  19. Angel L.

    For many the process of fundraising is a grind. If you embrace it as a process that with time, effort, and a little patience ok lots of patience it will come through then you can set your roadmap.However, the hard part for many is not realizing the process is long and steady but that they are probably working with a business and organization that will never get or achieve the level of funding they are asking for.How can you evaluate that and make the decision to stop and move on to something else especially if you are emotionally invested? What makes you keep going even after the slow and steady investment of time, effort, and patience don’t seem to be paying off as expected?