Community fundraising could use focus – Missoulians have many good, ambitious ideas, but couldn’t we tackle fewer at a time?

Missoula City Council members recently decided to hit up taxpayers for nearly $6 million for new and improved fire stations. The city is already looking to Missoulians to pay more than $8 million in recently approved taxes to build new aquatics facilities.

A private fundraising campaign has geared up to raise the other $1.4 million to complete the swimming pools.
Play Ball Missoula is looking to raise the last $3 million for its $10 million baseball stadium.

The Art Museum of Missoula is in the midst of raising nearly $5 million for its building expansion and makeover. The Humane Society is soliciting donations for its planned $1 million shelter, while the Ronald McDonald House works on fundraising to pay for its $2.5 million project to house families of ill children.

Meanwhile, a new group has declared plans to raise $6 million for a new community center while others are slowly pursuing plans for a multimillion-dollar performing arts center.

That’s a sampling, not a complete list, of the major fundraising campaigns under way at the moment in Missoula. At any given time, civic-minded Missoulians are knocking on doors and twisting arms for tens of millions in donations for bricks and mortar.

That’s all atop the annual communitywide United Way campaign and myriad four-, five- and six-figure campaigns to help fund all manner of worthy causes.

Nothing is wrong with beating the bushes for money to undertake good causes. Sometimes it makes sense to fund projects with tax dollars. Often it’s better – and easier and faster – to get things done with private donations.

What we’d like to see, however, is a little greater coordination of major fundraising campaigns. We’re talking about some kind of cooperative, not compulsory, clearinghouse or process for setting priorities and focusing efforts. All the money raised in this community – whether through private donations or taxes – essentially comes from the same pockets, the same pool of money. A constant barrage of fundraising appeals is dizzying and risks what’s known in philanthropy circles as "donor fatigue."

It just seems more efficient to approach these projects in a logical, linear fashion – one that allows completion of one fundraising effort before launching the next, or at least to attempt fewer things at once. Wouldn’t it be better to finish yesterday’s great idea before moving on to the next new thing?

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