Red Olive Culture Commons is excited to help you strategize about new and long-term ways to mobilize people and resources to your mission. We believe that everyone, no matter the organization or project size, should have access to professional strategists and fundraisers, and provide different modes of working to make it possible for you to fund your work.

We can’t wait to get started!

2020 CLIENT 

Cave Canem

“Cave Canem has been grateful to lean on Red Olive’s support to sustain multiple fundraising efforts during a period of leadership transition and growth. Red Olive continued to engage and secure institutional funding for our regular program offerings, including poetry readings, lectures and master classes facilitated by mid-career poets, community writing-workshop, and more. Through our partnership, Red Olive fortified our relationships with individual supporters by managing donor communications and coordinating a celebratory cultivation event in December 2019. Notably, Cave Canem achieved a huge milestone with Red Olive’s support, securing a $270,000 3-year grant from The Mosaic Network & Fund. As the largest grant received in Cave Canem’s history to date, this award allowed us to establish our first ever full-time development team, who were both trained by the incomparable DéLana Dameron. Red Olive has helped us to grow our capacity significantly and played a critical role in positioning Cave Canem for long-term success that will deepen our impact on the lives of Black poets in search of a literary home.”


Red Olive Works

Engage the Red Olive team for your comprehensive fundraising department needs. We lend our capacity and expertise to your organization for a six-to-twelve month contract to help you maintain and strengthen existing fundraising activities during a time of transition or strategic realignment.

Here are our three ways of working:

  • Development Operations – stay on top of the general business of fundraising.
  • Grants Management – we coordinate, prospect, write proposals and reports.
  • Administrative Support – we lend personnel support to an existing fundraising department.

Consultant on Call

Sometimes we need a coach and a running partner and a cheerleader all at once. We’re here for you. Have a Development Director on call! Up to 3 hours of contact per month for at least 3 months and unlimited email for quick questions or clarification. Requires a three month minimum, billed monthly. Topics may include but are not limited to:

Develop a year-long fundraising plan | Develop short term fundraising campaigns for high impact projects | Cultivate a culture of philanthropy within your organization | Individual giving program | Grant prospecting on a budget | Build a top-notch Board of Directors | Build a Membership Program | Grant Writing | Fundraising Letter Writing | Trainings for identified development staff |Build an impact-driven Junior Board | & more​

Grants Writer on Call

We’ll work with you through a full grant process of your choice. Our start date needs to be more than four weeks before a first deadline if we have not worked together before, or three weeks for government grants and two weeks for foundation grants.

Prospect Research (Institutional Giving / Individual Giving)

We’ve bought the expensive tools so you don’t have to! Let us help you understand who is already in your donor pool or what foundations might be out there ready to fund your dreams.

Fundraising Appeals

For organizations looking to raise money (more than $5,000) in a short period of time, or else work to acquire new donors that they can then move through their overall development/fundraising program. Fundraising appeals generally run 5 months, usually: September – January; March – July. Red Olive Creative Consulting will deliver the following:

  • Monthly timeline with deliverables
  • Suggested fundraising goals based on prior donation data
  • Two Rounds of Edits for appeal language, two letters/appeals, and an acknowledgement letter (electronic and/or mail), with design suggestions (final to be determined by client’s design style)
  • Mail merge of letters and labels
  • In the final month, weekly email updates (four weeks)
  • Collateral design, if requested (costs incurred)

Strategy Tune-up

Red Olive team will hold regular office hours for you to get quicker feedback and thought-partnership on your most pressing fundraising and organizational strategy questions. We request a bit of information beforehand so that we can show up at our best. See you there!

“Can you look at this?”

Short answer is–yes! We are storytellers first and foremost and ready to help you move people and resources to your mission. Use this option to get our eyes and virtual pen (DéLana will probably use a real pen!) on your newsletter, annual report, written appeals, or grant narrative. We will review a draft and provide feedback.

Something More Expansive

Our practice is to “get in the room before we map a way out,” and that sometimes means sometimes we work to build an engagement that incorporates some of all of the above. We’d love to build a plan together with you so you can focus on securing transformational funding for your mission. Click one of the links above that most fits what you’d like to explore with us, and we’ll take it from there.

2020 CLIENT 

Happy Family

“Happy Family began as a one-night-only experimental “night market” and has since grown into an annual festival and grassroots community organization that celebrates the Asian diaspora through food, art, and education. Past programs have included thoughtfully curated food, film, and music festivals, site-specific and participatory artworks, craft and culinary workshops, panel discussions, drag shows, performance art, and improv comedy. Since 2018, our festival has drawn over 3500 attendees, and supported over 200 artists, 80 speakers and educators, and 30 chefs and restaurants. The pandemic shutdown forced us to postpone our annual festival indefinitely, eliminating 100% of our income for the 2020 fiscal year. As a young, grassroots organization with no financial safety net, this was especially scary, because we suffered a financial loss in 2019, our first year of operations. We began the New Year with a plan for increasing our revenue—but two months into 2020, the exact opposite happened. Financial support and guidance from Red Olive has been transformative and invaluable—working with DéLana empowered us to reevaluate our priorities, identify and engage with relevant community stakeholders, develop a fundraising strategy, recruit a fundraising committee as part of that strategy, recapitalize our organization, and recover from a financial loss. We would not exist today were it not for the support and encouragement of Red Olive and DéLana Dameron. We are profoundly grateful for her leadership and expertise.”

We help you design the org you want.

Red Olive Culture Commons calculates its invaluable services by a day rate. This provides greater transparency to clients in terms of understanding and anticipating budget for a particular development/fundraising engagement, and will allow for better business operations.

Please note: Red Olive Culture Commons does not work on commission (% of money raised).

Frequently Asked Questions

In life, and in fundraising, there are no guarantees.

However, we like to provide you with a data analysis of your prior (2-3 years or prior campaigns like Kickstarter, etc) fundraising efforts and make an assessment and recommendation for fundraising goals, with some room for modest growth. We can’t guarantee you’ll go from $15,000 in gifts at the end of year to $65,000 but, we’ve seen it happen (for the record, for that client, we projected only $22,000). We want to keep your expectations grounded and rooted, and provide a strategy and clear steps towards achieving the goals we’ll come to together.

This is always the hardest answer to give. Red Olive’s primary client profile is that of organizations operating at or below $750,000. We thrive working with these organizations and simply love to see growth and impact in just a short amount of time.

Additionally, our services are customized to your organization’s needs. We don’t believe in one-size fits all, though there are certainly best practices that can be applied to many different types of organizations. You’ll find that what we suggest may seem familiar, but with the necessary and vital tweaks for your organization to reach specific financial and organizational goals we set together.

To that end, we understand the financial constraints of organizations and do our best to make our services affordable and work with you on an agreeable pay schedule.

As a company policy, Red Olive does not work on commission. We don’t take a “cut” or percentage of money earned. We want you to understand the full commitment, and full services at the top of the agreement, and be able to budget accordingly. If we exceed our goals—(the vast majority of Red Olive clients do!) then that’s more money you get to keep. Working on commission is just too mercurial, and puts the full fundraising onus on us, and that’s just not our model. We want to teach you to incorporate fundraising strategies into the organization’s DNA. We want to work ourselves out of a job. We want you to be an active participant in achieving your goals.

Red Olive loves a catch phrase. One of the phrases we say most often is “You can’t do it alone.” We fully believe in this philosophy as it comes to fundraising and often our first steps in an engagement is to help you change this pattern by identifying folks who, other than yourself, will function as fundraisers for the organization. In the absence of paid staff members, in an ideal world, your board would be the first folks listed. They aren’t? Let’s chat and change that. Consultant on Call or Red Olive Works might be best for you.

As a consultancy, Red Olive operates primarily in the form of strategic/thought partner to the Executive Director, Board, and/or Development staff when in place. The bulk of this work is done remotely via phone or video conferencing and email. Depending on the organization’s individual consultancy plan, there may be in-person training and support, however this is not a consistent expectation that a Red Olive consultant will be in-person in your office.

For some clients, they truly do need extra manpower. When this happens, we make the recommendation that the organization build their development department from the bottom up and start by hiring a junior staffer.

Red Olive has helped those clients to scope an effective job description for a junior development staffer (including negotiate pay and rates, etc), set up initial goals and needs of the hire, and work with the new employee and the Executive Director or senior leadership in best-practices for on-boarding a junior development staffer. We will still get great work done.

Utilizing donor-centered fundraising approaches is an important tool to master and consider in your annual year-round fundraising strategies. Unfortunately, it feels like we are asking you to do more work (we are). However, we believe the return on the investment of this work is a long-term strategy for fund development, and necessary if you want to build on your successes year to year instead of starting again from zero each year.

Because the donor is first, you (or a volunteer or staff) should serve as the front-facing person interacting with the donor or alumni or constituents. They need to get to know you!

We can help by role-playing conversations, drafting emails, and talking through strategy, but the point of contact comes from you/your organization. We want to teach you to incorporate fundraising strategies into the organization’s DNA. We want to work ourselves out of a job. We want you to be an active participant in achieving your goals.

Oftentimes a prospective client will come to us with an idea of what they want to execute with our expertise, and during the discovery phase, we discover that there might be a few steps before we can execute the big Gala or $1 Million capital campaign.

Red Olive helps you reframe expectations and needs based on manpower, time, budget, and existing circle of influence (donor database network, board network, volunteer networks), then helps you identify who can help you achieve those action items. We also have a few members we can lend to you to make sure it gets done.

Grants should certainly be a solid portion of any successful revenue stream for an organization of any size, and we can build support for grants into our engagement strategy. It’s more cost effective for you, however, to utilize us as a coach, and after having written a first draft of a grant, seek our expert advice for structure, strategy, and execution. See Grants Writer on Call.

Mostly, if your organization’s grant revenue (foundation, government) is more than 60% of your budget, our recommendation will most likely be for you to focus on individual donors, and most likely not by way of major fundraising events (Galas, Benefits, Art Auctions, etc).

If we are working with you with a grants strategy, we assume you already know where you want to apply. However, we now also offer prospect research and can help advise on grant proposal strategy so you are not just throwing spaghetti against the wall.

In addition to “you can’t do it alone,” Red Olive practices what we like to call “mission-based fundraising” vs. “transaction-based fundraising.”

Transaction-based fundraising: For organizations that don’t have existing membership programs, the last few years and the insurgence of fundraising platforms such as Kickstarter, Go Fund Me, Patreon, and etc have certainly been a benefit to organizations who are looking to build a roster of individuals willing to give to a cause. What this model does however, is provide sometimes necessary funds (if goal is met and you aren’t using a zero-sum strategy) to a specific project in exchange for a gift or prize.

Sounds good, right? Before you start your own campaign, please be advised that most small organizations do not take into account a few critical pieces:

The sheer amount of manpower it takes to manage these platforms via email, social media, print, word of mouth, telephone, skype, etc.

Processing fees. After all that’s said and done you could lose 3 – 10% or more of your funds raised to processing fees. For a project that raises $10,000, you would lose up to $1,000.

Price of gifts. It’s true, sometimes you have to spend money to make money. But is it worth that keychain, pencil, notebook, cheap tchotchke?

Mailing / Processing. You have to purchase the envelopes. You have to stuff the envelopes. You have to make your way to the post office to send the envelopes.

But you asked about Membership programs. They are no different; just a longer-term transaction-based program. You have to think about member benefits. What do you have to give in order to get? How many postcards and lapel pins and tote bags?

We aren’t saying don’t do a membership program, we are saying, let’s work together on mission-based fundraising. Where you are appealing to your donors to join you in accomplishing the thing you created an organization to do. To be investors in your vision. And so on. If you do it right, it might cost you a lunch, or a coffee, or a phone call and an e-mail, but that’s it. And then you get so much more.

It depends on how much of your budget depends on it (please don’t say more than 20%–but we know so often it is more like 50% or more—the remainder of what grants don’t cover).

In an ideal world, we have a year to plan. In a secondary ideal world, we have 8 months. Anything less than six months, and we won’t recommend that we are the company to help you execute this fundraising plan. And if you don’t have a budget line for fundraising…well!

Listen. The world is shifting. We have so much competition for our time, our resources, our energy. If folks don’t know about the work you are doing, they are less likely to invest in a ticket price for a Gala that will allow you to 1) break even or 2) be in the black. So, then you’re just throwing a party for folks who already believe in your mission and support you without a fancy party, who would probably support you differently, if not more, without a big, fancy party.

In truth, if you are operating below $1M, the investment would probably be better spent on personnel (!), technology, or other long-term strategic opportunities that will last you longer than one night with a rubber chicken dinner.

Sometimes it’s hard to think outside the box, or to go against what board members or others who mean well are telling you to do. It doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been. It can be something uniquely yours. We can help you think of what that looks like.