Observations on Fundraising
For a class I am currently taking, I have been working on my observation skills. This involves going a few times a week to a local diner and observing the behaviors of the regulars who sit at the counter. It's been eye-opening — and a reminder of how much I miss when I am lost in my own world of copywriting, editing, strategizing and reading.
So, in an effort to "open my eyes" more to the world, here are a few observations I've made this week that relate to our work as fundraisers.
We don't lack data; we lack time to absorb and use it
Most database management systems for nonprofits have dozens of reports available at the touch of a button. Some are useful, some are interesting and some … well, they are just downright confusing.
My apologies to those of you who have heard me say this before, but it bears repeating. As fundraisers, we are like Hans Brinker, who discovered the leak in a dike in Holland and plugged it with his finger. Every day, we come in to work and check our "dike." Some leaks are obvious — for example, donors are lapsing faster than we can replace them. Some are more subtle.
Figure out what you need to know to make good decisions about the most serious leaks, and concentrate on the data that will help you monitor — and improve — those areas. Once you've fixed the small leaks, continue to monitor them, but add additional reports to help identify the less obvious problems. Trying to do everything all at once — and absorb all the data you have available — is a recipe for disaster.
We don't lack external information, either
It seems that a few times a week I see an article about a new survey, research report or analysis that pertains to fundraising. Each one promises to offer value to me — and I suspect most do. But time is limited, and the data, it seems, isn't.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.