2014 Washington Nonprofit Conference: Are You Reaching Your Fundraising Potential?
The second shadow belief is that their organization is achieving the best results possible based on what they are doing today, which by the way is very unique. There is a significant blind spot here because most nonprofits can't see what's not happening because they aren't doing something. For example, fundraisers see their donor retention rate based only on what they are doing today. But they can't see how not running a donor thank-you call program is also impacting retention rates.
Since the 1940s, penicillin has been used by doctors as an antibiotic to treat serious diseases and infections. It has been proved through clinical trials, research and practical application to solve certain medical problems — so much so that not using it under the correct circumstances would be considered medical malpractice.
Doctors don't test penicillin at every hospital — once they tested it, it's accepted, and everyone uses it the same way. If a doctor doesn't do it that way, it's called malpractice. There are similar proven practices in the nonprofit sector that just aren't being used by everyone. This "tribal medicine" being practiced every day in the nonprofit sector leads to underperforming results.
The future opportunity for the nonprofit sector is to identify through our own clinical trials what works in the vast majority of cases for nonprofits. We already know of certain practices that improve donor retention and long-term value. This eliminates the tribal medicine and focuses on repeatable and scalable practices of donor care.
Longfield posed the question: Are you reaching your fundraising potential? The answer is clear — most nonprofits really aren't living up to their potential. But the good news is that we can do things as nonprofit professionals to improve the sector's performance across the board and, in turn, the ability to have real impact on our collective missions.