5 Causes of Sloppy Fundraising
I have a confession. I abhor sloppy fundraising. It irritates me because it means that an organization — and its volunteers and staff — spend a lot more time and, yes, money to raise a lot less money for their missions and usually get very frustrated along the way.
It irritates me because donors may not experience the maximum joy of giving due to a negative experience, bad stewardship or a lack of understanding just how impactful their gifts could be.
The challenge: Sloppy fundraising is found in nonprofits large and small. It's in organizations that appear sophisticated and those that do not, in nonprofits that have scarce resources and ones that have incredible resources.
The symptoms of sloppy fundraising include campaigns that run on forever, never really reach goals and burn out staff and volunteers.
Here are five causes of sloppy fundraising:
- Failure to plan. Thinking you know everything and can jump in without the right campaign research (a planning and feasibility study for larger plans) and plan is foolish. You will execute faulty strategy and not come close to fulfilling your potential.
- Failure to be donor-centered. This includes campaigns that are centered on staff ego and not donor-centered. We need to raise $xx because competitors or aspirational organizations are raising $xx. A goal should be based on real needs for the institution — not someone's ego or competition.
- Failure to prepare. Hurry up and wait, or let's get going — but then the campaign drags on far past when it would have ended with proper preparation. You can't create deep relationships overnight, and you need lots of them to raise big bucks. What takes place in preparation before you ask for your first gift most determines your success.
- Failure to invest. Strong fundraising programs that endure take time and money to build. Building systems, staff and infrastructure is important to support a campaign where you can focus on relationship building.
- Failure to execute. You can have a great plan, but if it isn't executed properly it isn't effective. In the execution you have to create urgency, keep sights high and stay the course. There are constant pressures to take shortcuts — and that will shortchange the goal and those you serve.
Sloppy fundraising does nothing to enhance our noble profession. For your success and for our profession, let's work to clean up sloppy fundraising!
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.