Larry C. Johnson: The 8 Principles of Sustainable Fundraising
FS: What hurdles and challenges do you see fundraisers faces these days, and how can they overcome some of those?
LJ: Probably the most significant one, the broadest one is donors are getting a lot more particular — not that they necessarily want to have more involvement, although some do, but especially with the younger generation, the Gen Y people, they want to see accountability and they're looking more for effectiveness than efficiency. That's hard for fundraisers often because they're so used to going out and just bringing the money back. One of the key problems with nonprofit organizations is their ability or their lack of attention to stewardship, and that's one of the big hurdles that I see.
Channels of communication are changing. There's so much out there in terms of social media. Sometimes those things are addressed as that's going to change the way people give. Well yes and no. It's really like learning a whole new way to communicate. It's still the issue of communication. That's where the focus should be.
The economy, not so much. I have not seen that. Most of the real issues that often confound fundraisers are going on inside of the organization rather than the outside.
FS: So then, is hedging your bets, so to speak, in this economy a mistake?
LJ: Absolutely. Fundraising is the antithesis of begging. I really stress this to my clients. Fundraising is giving donors an opportunity to invest in a vision, a mission. And people will do that when they'll do nothing else. People want to be a part of something larger than themselves if you've identified the right people, the people who have a shared value base with yourself. I've been in this business 25 years, and I've seen recessions come and go. The economy is a convenient reason, or a convenient excuse, for not addressing some of the issues that may be a little more prominent.