2014 Washington Nonprofit Conference: Are You Reaching Your Fundraising Potential?
While presenting at the DMA Nonprofit Federation's 2014 Washington Nonprofit Conference two weeks ago, Chuck Longfield, Blackbaud's chief scientist and past recipient of DMANF's Max L. Hart Nonprofit Achievement Award, asked a very simple question: "Are you reaching your fundraising potential?"
There are usually three different answers: "Yes," "No" and "We're doing the best we can." It's that last answer that was central to his presentation.
Longfield shared the following insight into the opportunities nonprofits have to shift their answer towards "yes":
If you take two nonprofits or a hundred nonprofits and line up their business practices, then you will quickly find differences. Some organizations do things one way, and a similar nonprofit does it a different way. If you asked them why they do things a certain way, then you're also likely to get a lot of qualitative answers.
Comparing organizations also shows that some organizations perform better than others. And those differences can be quantified and measured. It's what forms the basis for benchmarking — a very valuable tool used by nonprofits. But this is where many nonprofit organizations stop and miss hidden opportunities.
You actually need to go a few steps further to maximize the value from benchmarks. If one organization is performing significantly better in one area, then it's unlikely that it's all down to luck. Understanding exactly what those organizations are doing and replicating those programs are the basis for best practices.
If benchmarks tell us how one nonprofit compares to another, and best practices tell us how to repeat performance improvements, then why doesn't every nonprofit use these tools? There are two primary shadow beliefs (things nonprofits believe are true but really aren't) that prevent them from reaching their fundraising potential.
The first shadow belief is that fundraisers think their organization is unique and what works for another organization can't possibly work for them. This notion of ubiquitous uniqueness is highly overstated and ignores the reality that there are proven patterns for donor behavior. As it turns out, if you look at enough donor data and apply some established human psychological factors, there are real predictable patterns.
Steve MacLaughlin is the vice president of data and analytics at Blackbaud and best-selling author of “Data Driven Nonprofits.” Steve has spent 20-plus years driving innovation with a broad range of companies, government institutions and nonprofit organizations. He serves on the board of the Nonprofit Technology Network and is a frequent speaker at conferences and events. Steve earned both his undergraduate degree and a Master of Science degree in interactive media from Indiana University.