Event Recap: Sustainable Fundraising with Ken Wyman

This full-day workshop at the RA Centre marked the ten year anniversary of the National Capital Environmental Non-profit Network (NCENN), which is currently a program of Sustainable Eastern Ontario. The Network started in the fall of 2008, with an original presentation by Ken Wyman, and has been holding regular networking and capacity building sessions to support local environmental groups.

Community members checking in for the session.

Ken Wyman is a professor at Humber College, author of several books on fundraising, and has helped groups of all sizes raise millions of dollars.

Ken Wyman

The workshop kicked off with an overview of where funding sources come from, including an interactive polling of the participants which highlighted many surprising sources right away. Government departments at all levels were often not what you’d first think of – Status of Women, Fisheries and Oceans, Municipal Green Fund, Francophone Affairs, in-kind support from the NCC, and many others. On key tip is to talk to your representative (or their staff), especially at the municipal level, about what funds and grant programs exist.

Some groups are leery of corporate funding, but this crowd had several helpful suggestions including the TD FEF, Metro’s Green Apple Fund, Canada Post, and small business such as local bike shops. The Ontario Trillium Foundation is an obvious funder, but many other foundations exist as well, such as RBC, the Senators Foundation, The Harry P Ward Foundation (recommended by one participant for their straightforward application process) and the Ottawa Community Foundation. Don’t overlook microgranting organizations, such as Awesome Ottawa.


After a break, Ken shared some advice for writing good applications, including building clear and compelling goals, demonstrating previous success or additional funding, and avoiding the word “we”: shaping language to be about the funder and the impact they will have makes them the hero and can be more effective. He spent time outlining some key things to avoid, many of which may seem obvious, but apparently happen all the time! These include leaving things to the last minute, not verifying the correct address or the right person to submit an application to, having budgets where the math doesn’t add up, and forgetting to include your own return address. On the flip side, he gave examples of ways to increase the odds an application actually getting to the right place and being read, such as leveraging your networks to have a personal connection, using businesses aligned with the funders values for printing etc., and not mixing them up with competitors – one specific example was not to use FedEx to deliver an application to Canada Post.

Being able to demonstrate that you have measurable outcomes increases funder confidence, but there was discussion about how relevant, accurate information can be difficult to get in a cost effective way that also isn’t invasive or difficult for the community being served. Evaluation is a whole field in and of itself, and it may be worth bringing on an expert or seeking advice from more experienced groups or any support services the funder offers.

Over lunch, Sustainable Eastern Ontario presented their second annual Sustainability Star awards. Recipients were Maison Tucker House and three organizations selected from among the twenty best energy management practices that were profiled in the case study document “Ottawa’s Energy Outlook”. These were the City of Ottawa’s BEEM Unit, the Ottawa Catholic School Board, and the Perley and Rideau Veterans Centre. All were selected for their excellent evaluation of energy management problems they faced and effective implementation of large scale solutions.

In the afternoon the focus changed to individual donors, from who to ask for major donations, to how to think differently about our own networks to set up the situation where the right people get asked in the right way – and yes, we figured out who in the room was most closely connected to Kevin Bacon. There was an overview of some the surprising statistics on charitable giving in Canada, and a general hierarchy of the best people to approach for donations, and Ken even got the room to sing a funding-themedNamestorming version of Side by Side before a walk through of an exercise he calls “Namestorming” – similar to the opening exercise with the group, but focused on individuals and aimed at getting those personal connections.

Participants were given access to the presentation slides, a free PDF download of one of Ken’s books, and access to a Facebook group with further support and resources. Anyone who didn’t attend but wants to know more should visit Ken Wyman’s Humber College info page, or look him up on Twitter (@KenWyman) or LinkedIn.

Towards the end of the day, the room broke into groups to role-play asking key donors for larger donations.


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