Fundraising Campaigns

Written by Andrew Kozlov
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Fund-raising campaigns behave in many ways like neural networks, military campaigns, and chemical reactions. All of these systems rely on independent agents to acquire information and distribute that data throughout networks. The rules for how to govern a fund-raising campaign may be simple, but the results you'll get will be nonlinear and unpredictable.

This idea--taken from a new branch of mathematics known as Complexity Theory--suggests that fund-raising campaigns might be best run not as “top-down” machines but rather as “node to node” networks. Let me give you a practical example. Let's say that you're trying to raise money for a muscular dystrophy association, and you have 500 volunteers at your disposal.

A New Way to Raise Funds

You could set up a corporate fund-raising apparatus governed by an executive board. However, what would likely happen is that the people in charge of the board would get really involved in fund-raising efforts, while the people on the lower tiers would feel disempowered and ultimately disenchanted. As a result, you may miss out on the “people power” latent in these lower levels.

What I'm suggesting is that you could turn your fund-raising campaign into a “networked” campaign, in which motivated individuals could assemble their own teams and derive their own strategies. For instance, if you have one particularly ambitious volunteer who wants to fund-raise among her friends through a third party, you wouldn’t have to oversee her efforts. Ultimately, this more intuitive and less strict format for governing fund-raising should lead to a bigger return.

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