15 Mistakes That Have Already Been Made for You
It’s been said that good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. There’s a lot we can learn from some of the really bad decisions that have been made — so we can make better ones. Or at least we can make our own mistakes rather than simply repeating these whoppers.
Here are 15 mistakes we all wish we had known about without having to actually make them!
Cutting acquisition quantity to improve fundraising ratios but destroying your future revenue stream in the process. If you cut back on acquisition, you’ll have fewer current donors to cultivate next year and will start a downward revenue spiral that’s difficult to reverse.
Lazy cultivation. It’s not worth all the time, money, blood, sweat and tears we invest to acquire new donors if we’re not going to cultivate them right. Thank them. Segment them carefully. Thank them. Be relevant to them. Thank them. Show them the significance of their gifts. Don’t let that file go cold. Reactivate them. Retention. Retention. Retention.
Letting brand dictate fundraising messages instead of mandating that brand reinforce fundraising messages.
Being seduced by a consultant who claims to be able to acquire “higher value donors” and ending up getting too few donors to sustain your organization. The lesson is you need a program that acquires those higher value donors plus all the other donors.
Setting a target for your capital campaign but forgetting to include two years of operating budget in the total. The new building or new programs always cost more to operate than your current budget. By raising two years of operating costs up front, it gives you time to increase your revenue stream to meet the new operating budget.
Cutting revenue-producing programs to address a budget shortfall. A wise accountant serving as a new board member addressed a nonprofit’s $100,000 budget shortfall. He suggested actually spending more money on revenue-producing activities. He correctly noted that the direct-response (DR) program raised $3 for every $1 spent. Increasing the DR budget by $50,000 raises $150,000 — with a net of $100,000 to solve the revenue shortfall.
Accepting watchdog standards. Don’t brag about your stars. Instead, teach donors to judge you by the impact of your programs, not by arbitrary — and often misleading — cost ratios.
Tom Harrison is the former chair of Russ Reid and Omnicom's Nonprofit Group of Agencies. He served as chair of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.