Want to Raise More Money? Find Your Tower of Power

Photo by William Beutler

I spent a couple days last week in Atlanta teaching nonprofits how to identify and leverage their assets. Assets are anything a nonprofit has that it can use to identify, cultivate, and execute win-win partnerships with a business partner.

I encouraged the attending nonprofits to leave no stone unturned.

  • — Do you have a large, successful event (e.g. run, walk, ride, gala, etc.) that a business would want to support because the attendees are their customers?
  • — Does a board member know, work or live near a business owner that you would like to call a partner?
  • — Is your nonprofit’s mission focused on a hot or trending issue that people are eager to support? (Think back to Hurricane Sandy last year and the nonprofits that were involved in the cleanup)
  • — Do you have a large following on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest that would be an asset for a business looking to grow its social profile with, for instance, a Facebook Like promotion?

Assets are everywhere. Sometimes they are right under your feet–or over your head!

Driving home from the airport after my Atlanta trip, I saw the tower that marks the site of Boston’s best known homeless shelter, the Pine Street Inn. It’s a beautiful, historic tower that was built between 1892 and 1894. It was modeled after the Palazzo Pubblico, the old town hall in Siena, Italy.

Back in the early 2000’s, the tower was more about money than history. Looking up at the tower on his regular drive into the city, advertising executive Peter Brown had an epiphany. The tower was visible to commuters from several main roadways and would be an excellent place for billboard advertising.

The rest is history.

Brown convinced the Pine Street Inn that they had a great opportunity right over their heads. Over several years, the Pine Street Inn raised over two million from advertising, which went to restoring the tower to its former glory. It cost a lot more than anyone expected.

Unfortunately, in 2008 after the tower had been restored, the nonprofit bowed to public pressure and removed the ads.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. The economy soon sputtered, and the extra money would have certainly helped the shelter.

Photo by Giam

The bigger lesson for nonprofits is clear. We all have assets–sometimes physical assets–from which we can raise money. But we don’t always realize what our assets are. Sometimes we need people like Peter Brown who can point them out to us. Even then, we need to be open-minded enough to accept and act on them.

Assets come in all shapes and sizes. For Boston’s Pine Street Inn, it was their tower. What’s your tower of power?

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