There’s an old saying in fundraising that goes, “No one ever gives money to a billboard.” Billboards can be great for raising awareness, but they have only seconds to catch your eye, and they give you no easy way to respond.

Nonprofits that depend on donor support-as we do at the Lambda Literary Foundation-have to be more than billboards. It isn’t enough to be ubiquitous within the LGBTQ literature community, nor to be the premier organization for advancing queer literature. To raise funds from donors, we have to ask. Whether we do it face to face, by letter or email, or through our personal contacts on social media, like our Facebook friends and Twitter followers, we have to ask, and we have to make it easy to say yes.

At LLF, some of those “asks” are event-related. Tickets to the Lammy Awards. Scholarships for authors attending the Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices. Author tributes, library events, cocktail parties. Others are what we call appeals. A membership drive in the spring to support our website, the Lambda Literary Review. A challenge grant in the fall. A year-end campaign.

Each year when we set up our budget, we project how much we need to raise in order to deliver on our mission to nurture, celebrate and preserve LGBTQ literature. The good news is that our events usually take care of themselves; that is, we tend to sell enough tickets and collect enough sponsorships and fees to cover expenses. Give something, get something-the classic transaction.

Where we struggle-where all nonprofits struggle-is in raising money for operations. The transaction is still there, but it’s less obvious to the giver, because what they get in return is less tangible. Staff salaries, office expenses, postage. Web hosting and contributing writer stipends, community outreach. Accounting services, bank fees, insurance. Without this infrastructure, LLF cannot meet its mission.

Our fall campaign is a challenge grant, which means your donation will be matched dollar for dollar by generous donors. When you see that email, letter, Facebook post or Tweet, please don’t drive by it as if it’s only a billboard. Take a moment to follow the link and make a gift of any size. Share our mission.

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