When I took this job, I was pretty confident in my ability to perform most every task the Network would need its director to do â€“ except for one.Â And that one is, for a nonprofit, kind of a biggie.
I sincerely dislike asking for money, known in the nonprofit world as fundraising.Â I am not very good at it, lacking most of the social skills required to be an effective fundraiser.Â I tend to approach my job with a capitalistic* mindset: If we offer good value for your member dues and conference registrations, and if we do a good job letting people know about the programs and services we offer, and if we are smart and disciplined about what we spend, then the money will take care of itself â€“ especially since, as a nonprofit, we donâ€™t have shareholders expecting dividends and capital gains.
For the most part, this approach works.Â But the cold, hard truth facing the Network now, in this economy, is that while we can continue to get by like this for some time, we cannot grow the way weâ€™d like to without the additional support of donors, contributors, sponsors, and friends.Â We canâ€™t expand our offerings of programs and services, canâ€™t do more for the writers (and potential writers) of North Carolina, without widening the banks of that good old revenue stream.
Even as prices for many things rise, we remain committed to keeping our member dues and registration fees as low as practicable; I hope youâ€™ve noticed that dues and fees have stayed the same for more than half a decade, except for the new fee structures weâ€™ve created to provide less-expensive registration options.
This Sunday, weâ€™re going to try a new kind of fundraising, one that we hope will serve as a model for future fundraising events.Â â€œSouthern Fictions/Southern Identitiesâ€ will feature a reading and panel discussion, rather than a buffet and socializing.Â We will ask for donations, rather than charge admission.Â We will offer our guests strong and honest words, rather than back-slapping and glad-handing.
We want this event to be as democratic as possible, open to everyone who wants to hear good poetry and engage in thoughtful discussion; all we ask in return is that you give what you can.Â Donations collected at â€œSouthern Fictions/Southern Identitiesâ€ will help support scholarships and faculty honoraria at the 2011 Fall Conference, November 18 â€“ 20 in Asheville.
If you cannot make it to the event, but would like to make a donation, you can do so online with a VISA or MasterCard.Â You can also mail a check to NCWN, P.O. Box 21591, Winston-Salem, NC, 27120.
At the very least, please keep your fingers crossed that this works, and that a large and generous crowd joins us at Malapropâ€™s for what will surely be a thought-provoking evening.
To the Networkâ€™s many members and friends, thank you for the support youâ€™ve provided for so long.Â We have enjoyed serving North Carolinaâ€™s writers for the last quarter-century, and we look forward to serving writers for the next 25 years . . . and many, many more.
Southern Fictions/Southern Identities
5 â€“ 7 P.M., Sunday, October 16
55 Haywood St., Asheville
* Yes, I know this is an old-fashioned concept of capitalism, but Iâ€™m hoping it makes a comeback.