Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fishing for Funding

At the breakfast Rotary club meeting in Bluffton this past week, Al Stokes, Manager of the Waddell Mariculture Center, described Governor Sanford's efforts to close the facility in a budget-cutting move. The Bluffton aquaculture facility releases millions of fish and shrimp each year to enhance the recreational and commercial fisheries in South Carolina. Fortunately for Waddell there are many fishing enthusiasts who have purchased the recreational fishing licenses that fund the Center. More than a thousand have signed an electronic petition urging the Governor to reconsider.

Tallulah Trice has just joined the Center as a fundraiser. She is fishing for philanthropists. In this age of declining government support raising funds from private donors is the new survival strategy. That we need to resort to direct mail campaigns, membership drives, newsletters, and open houses to generate private support is not a shame, its a strength. It is informed decision-making driven down to the single citizen level.

The pendulum that swings from tax relief to tax increases appears to be returning to the center. But as more and more government-supported agencies take on a new paradigm, one of education and stewardship of prospective and current donors, might that whole idea of a pendulum be too one dimensional? Might the real shift be instead from taxation to donation?

You remember that old saying about giving a fish versus teaching fishing? Maybe we are now not just talking fishing, but instead a whole new kind of that involves growing donors instead of just catching dollars.

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