Mary Jo Podgurski

Column Mary Jo Podgurski

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 68 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

Advice about raising money

March 12, 2014

Q. Having grown up in Washington County, I went away to school, I moved back here for a job and am happy to be home. My job allows me free time that I am using to volunteer for a small nonprofit. I have been to a couple of their events and made contact with a board member and have been asked to join the fundraising committee. I explained that I know nothing about fundraising, and tried to offer other options to use my talents. The board member explained that every new volunteer starts on the fundraising committee to learn about their mission, events, service area/population, etc. I want to become an asset to this group, as I really believe in their mission and goals, but fundraising? HELP!


Q.My boyfriend is a volunteer fireman here in Washington County. It seems like they are always having fundraisers to pay for this or that, and it takes up a lot of his free time. I would like to offer to help but know nothing about raising money. Can you advise me on where I can learn how to do this?


Mary Jo’s response: I placed your questions together because my responses are so similar. First, please accept my congratulations for your commitment to our community. Fundraising is the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations. Our outreach relies on the goodness of donors, and I’ve been a board member for many other agencies where survival depends upon fundraising. At first, the concept of raising money may be daunting, but with education, the process can be smooth.

I recommend reading articles and attending workshops on fundraising. The Internet is full of sites offering how-to guides for fundraising. Be cautious and read carefully – some sites offer information at a cost. The National Council for Nonprofits provides free information on a wide variety of topics on its website at

An excellent handout for nonprofit board members is available at The author stresses these key components:

1. People give money because they want to;

2. People usually don’t give unless they are asked;

3. People give to opportunities, not needs;

4. People give to support success, not distress;

5. People give to make a change for the good;

6. People give to people.

Nationally, the Foundation Center ( offers resources and workshops. I attended their two-day workshop in New York City over a decade ago and found it helpful. I’d written successful grants for nearly 20 years prior to attending; obviously one can prepare funding proposals without formal training, but it helps.

Luckily, a local workshop on fundraising will be offered at the Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center (985 Manifold Road in Washington) from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 29. “Putting the ‘Fun’ Back in Fundraising” is being presented by longtime fundraising guru Leland Wykoff from Tennessee. Wykoff has worked with a wide range of groups. His focus is creating successful fundraisers for groups, schools or organizations. The workshop is only $25 for adults and $10 for students (and includes lunch). To reserve a space, send reservations and a check payable to the Washington County GSA to WCGSA, 390 Sanitarium Road, Washington, PA 15301. More information is available at

Social media provides new opportunities for fundraising. “Crowd funding” or “crowd sourcing” refers to web platforms where petitions for financial support can be distributed online. GoFundMe is a crowd funding platform that allows people to raise money for life events as varied as celebrations and graduations to challenging circumstances like accidents and illnesses. Kickstarter is a crowd funding platform whose mission is to help bring creative projects to life, and Indiegogo is an international crowd funding platform. Our outreach is in the final days of an Indiegogo campaign to promote our children’s coloring book for our child abuse prevention program, “Inside Out: Your Body is Amazing Inside and Out and Belongs Only to YOU.” ( These web-based campaigns not only seek support but also help spread the word about your mission.

Finally, please remember that fundraising begins with you. If you believe in an organization, make your own gift first. People are more willing to provide support if they know you are vested in the mission of the organization. Remember, no gift is too small. Good luck.



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