We Are Building American Buddhism

Pay It Forward: Get on the Path to Growth

Prison Mindfulness Institute

Kimberley Sherwood and Fleet Maull

In September, 2012, Prison Mindfulness Institute (PMI) founder Fleet Maull and PMI Executive Director Kate Crisp and I embarked on a journey with help from the Frederick P.  Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism, in the form of a $75,000 recoverable grant, the first such grant in the Lenz Foundation Pay It Forward program.  Our destination? A robust major gifts programs that will sustain Prison Mindfulness Institute over time.

Sharing our experience is part of the Pay-it-Forward program and while things are still just in the beginning stages of the two-year project, progress is already being made.

To help take the guesswork out of our strategy, a handful of practices are guiding our work.

  1. Finding PMI’s funding focus
  2. Investing in individuals and institutionalizing practices
  3. Committing to an evolving funding strategy over time
  4. Getting strategic about getting bigger

Because the season of giving was looming on the horizon just as this project kicked off, we had to jump right in and strategize about the annual appeal. By focusing on two simple ideas, PMI experienced an 80% increase in contributions from the 2011 to  2012:

  • First, the team expanded the acquisition list from 10,000 to 25,000
  • Second, we segmented the renewal list and identified people we believed could do more or needed a little more TLC.

These two basic steps, relevant to any fundraising strategy, were effective refinements over previous years.

Concurrently, we also outlined the kind of individual Fleet and Kate would benefit from having on the fundraising team. Over the course of a few weeks, we clarified responsibilities, considered culture, reviewed past successes and breakdowns with other staff, and created the Development Associate position to fit PMI’s precise needs. A search ensued, 30 plus candidates applied, and a finalist was selected and has accepted the position. PMI’s new Development Associate, Lesley Bunnell just began here second week on the job and has clear performance objectives to be measured at 30, 90 and 180 days.

So, in the span of just a few months, we raised more money than before and found the best talent for our budget.

Next up, clarifying the funding focus and developing and evolving funding strategy.

Stay tuned!