Tag Archives: planning

How to sabotage your fundraising efforts

fundraising errors, errors in fundraising, fundraising, planning,  donor stewardship, fundraising mistakes,Fundraising is about asking for money. That’s the common perception. But is it the truth? Here’s what we have learned from our extensive work with nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities, individual donors, program officers and foundation executives: fundraising is about much more than asking for money. Individual solicitations, proposal submissions, 5K runs, and galas are methods and tactics. Behind these are the fundamentals of your nonprofit’s business. These fundamentals often influence giving and the amount of a gift.

Here are a few examples of business decisions, missteps and indecisions that can contribute to a lack of investment in nonprofits.

  1. Fail to articulate and diligently pursue your niche
  2. Operate without a multi-year strategic plan
  3. Seek capital investments without a strategy for growing revenue for operations
  4. Accept a gift for a specific purpose and use it for another purpose.
  5. Be slow in sending out thank you letters. Create a form letter and send it out with a computer generated signature at the end of the month.
  6. Allocate funds in ways that are not in line with your core priorities
  7. Offer executive compensation that is out of line with salaries of other employees and the community
  8. Isolate your organization from community stakeholders, the business community and those you serve

Many of above are things we have heard from major donors. One thing we know about major donors is that not all of them start out as major donors. And many do not announce themselves as such. This is true of individual donors as well as foundations and corporations. Treat everyone well. Demonstrate that you are serious about your business and communicate that consistently in words and in actions.

Here’s a recent quote from a major donor, “You have to recognize my giving. Not just for me, but to inspire others. People don’t understand that in recognizing me you are inspiring others to give.” Don’t make the blunder of minimizing the contributions of major donors. If you don’t have a donor recognition program, put one in place. Be consistent in how you recognize donors. Value your relationships. And don’t be deceived by people who downplay a desire for recognition. Very few people will tell you directly, “I want to be recognized.” It is your job to recognize donors in a first class way. Don’t be afraid to consider naming opportunities as appropriate.

In regards to gifts from foundations and corporations: remember that people work in these institutions. They remember whether you submit your report on time, if you invite them to events, update them on your progress, and – most importantly – whether or not you achieve the goals outlined in your proposal.

Take care of the business of running a nonprofit: it will support your fundraising.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fundraising: investment or afterthought?

Investment or afterthoughtInvesting in the fundraising operations of a nonprofit is an investment in the organization’s future. It takes time to build a fundraising program that is capable of securing revenue from multiple sources. It takes vision, planning, leadership and resources – including money.  And, it doesn’t necessarily “pay off” right away. A fundraising program takes time and attention to mature. Often three-to-five years. And during that time the investment in fundraising needs to be consistent. Once a fundraising program is well established it can support a nonprofit organization or institution in meeting its revenue goals. But, again, it takes time. And even once established, it cannot be put on “automatic pilot.”

Fundraising needs consistent attention from the organization’s top leadership. That means the CEO and board members have to be willing to cultivate and solicit gifts all the time, not once in a while. The focus needs to be on building and sustaining a pool of prospective donors and funders. You need a pool who can collectively give three times the fundraising goal because not everyone who wants to give will be in a position to do so when asked. You have to know who these people are. You have to be in contact with them. You have to know what they want from a funding or giving relationship with your organization.

Don’t wait until the organization needs money to build a fundraising program. That’s when it’s too late. Our recommendation: attract the people and expertise to build and sustain your programs and simultaneously attract the people and expertise needed to raise money for the program in future years. It can take a minimum of 12 to 18 months to secure meaningful investments from foundations, corporations or individuals. Having a strong program that meets community needs doesn’t mean an organization will be able to raise money when funds are needed. Successful fundraising is the result of consistent planning and engagement.

With the economy turning around and money beginning to flow again now is the time for nonprofits to build sustainable fundraising programs. Prepare for future challenges. Get your house in order. Be proactive, not reactive. Build a program that attracts unrestricted funding as well as the “easier” to obtain restricted funding. Yes, it takes time and creativity to find ways to secure unrestricted funding: but if you don’t make the investment you won’t have the unrestricted funds. Ensure your board and CEO are committed to fundraising. Seek out volunteers who are fearless fundraisers. Create a fundraising plan that seeks funds from multiple revenue sources – not only foundation or government grants. Attract, train and invest in committed and experienced staff.  Review and refine your case for support. Articulate your uniqueness. Align your organization with community needs. Respond to the market. You can do it: it takes vision, planning, commitment and your time.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them @saadshaw.