Boo! Don’t Scare Away Your Donors
Since Halloween is approaching as I write this (and probably just passed as you read it) — and since I can't get the "Little Shop of Horrors" song out of my head — I thought I'd share some of the scariest mistakes I've seen from small nonprofits. My hope is that you take heed and learn from these so you can avoid them.
Lack of planning and strategy
If you don't know where you want to go, then any road gets you there. Without a plan, you spend every day reacting to the crisis du jour and never really move your fundraising efforts forward. Having a plan is critical to the success of your organization. It doesn't have to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning document, but it does need to provide goals and direction for your organization. Remember, people don't plan to fail. They fail to plan.
How to avoid this creepy mistake: Make a plan today! Start putting ideas on paper, even if they are more of an outline. Then fill that outline in a little at a time. It won't seem so overwhelming that way.
Lack of support and participation from your organization leaders
Your executive director must be involved in fundraising. When it comes time to ask a donor for money or thank a donor for a gift, your top staff person must be involved. Likewise, your board of directors must pull its weight. It's one of the board's basic responsibilities. Board members should make monetary gifts themselves, and they should support fundraising efforts by attending or hosting events, opening doors to people they know, and thanking donors.
How to avoid this ghoulish mistake: Be clear about what you expect organizational leaders to do and how you want them to participate. Don't say to them, "You need to help with fundraising." They don't know what that means. Be specific. Ask them to do something particular, and explain how it helps you raise money.