LEWISTON — In introducing himself around the last few months, Matt Leonard, new president of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce, heard the same thing over and over from some of the chamber’s 122 nonprofit members.

“Their major frustration is they all feel like they’re raising money in the same pond and there’s only so much money to go around,” Leonard said. “Coming back and thinking about it, I really thought we really need to bring someone from outside the local area that understands fundraising at a very high level, at a very professional level, to really turn our nonprofits on to some national resources for them.”

Enter Nancy Bocskor and “Go Fish.”

Bocskor’s long resume as a speaker, consultant and fundraiser includes having been a congressional chief of staff, Newt Gingrich’s chief legislative aid and a board member on Running Start, a group that encourages young women to run for office. She’s also a professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, where Leonard took a fundraising class with her several years ago.

She wrote the recently-updated “Go Fish: How to Catch and Keep Contributors” in 2007 and has traveled internationally giving the Go Fish workshop.

“There’s no one more passionate about raising money than Nancy,” Leonard said.


The chamber is hosting her for a four-hour workshop on Aug. 20. The event is $149 for members, $249 for nonmembers. For an additional fee, she’ll do one-on-one coaching in the afternoon.

Twenty-one people have signed up as of last week, some from as far away as Ogunquit. Leonard’s shooting for 100. 

Bocskor, from Virginia, said feeling that the local fundraising scene is too small is a common complaint. Last fall, after another successful Dempsey Challenge, several area nonprofits quietly said it’s been hard to fundraise without feeling like they were competing with The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing.

Bocskor said solutions might come from diversifying. If you’re a local theater group, for instance, you might start a summer camp for teens on how to break into acting.

“People would pay you for this expertise you have, and yes, it takes a little more work, but you can also get a revenue stream, and with so many camps and people vacationing in Maine, maybe that’s a market to tap into,” she said.

She said she encourages nonprofits to be specific — how much are they asking for? And what is it helping? — don’t underestimate your reach, and know the story you want to tell. How are you changing lives? she said.


“A lot of people think they’re going to tweet and text their way to millions, and it comes down to relationship building,” Bocskor said. “(I) remind people, I have to grab your heart because your heart is closer to your wallet than head. Most fundraising decisions are not based on calculated reasons; it’s because there’s something with that message that spoke to you.”

After earthquakes devastated Nepal last spring, Bocskor said she felt bad for the people there but had no personal connection until a former student from Nepal posted on Facebook.

“There’s a nonprofit providing tents and her family was living in one of these tents, and, ‘Would you help this nonprofit?'” Bocskor said. “I ended up sending money to something because I had a relationship with the student I met years ago. I think sometimes we think we can only ask the people that are in the same room. Our network is much more vast than people really think about sometimes.”

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