Butter Over Too Much Toast: Managing the One-Person Nonprofit Fundraising Shop
A dependable revenue stream that grows — ah, paradise!
Have a fundraising challenge that you want to crack? Weary of doing the same old, same old yet hoping for different outcomes? Do you want the results that come from superior strategy?
Email me with your particular problem, and I'll arrange a quick consultation offering you a practical solution you can implement. I may even use your situation to share with my readers. Names are changed, of course!
Last week, I had the privilege of speaking with Lisa, the development director for a charity focused upon disabled adults. Lisa impressed me with her energy and commitment to the cause.
Lisa's quandary is that of so very many in the fundraising world. She's a one-person shop. Outside of a clerical, she's "it" in revenue generation for the small organization. As she said, she's the "director of it all."
There is so much to be done — be it direct mail, major gifts, events, planned giving, grants. Lisa even handles the marketing and community relations.
Being one person to cover all makes her a bit like butter spread over too much toast. It covers the bread but so thinly that the taste is barely there.
And yet the mantra is, "more, more, more." More of what? "Dollars!" you say.
I challenged Lisa to think not in terms of more but better. The implicit question of "how to do more?" simply isn't the right query.
Let's face it: One person can only do so much. Even with all the technology and "multitasking" — which is a subject all itself — there are definable limits. Period.
Once we've recognized our time and energy limits, we're ready to be more productive — really effective.
First, all fundraising efforts are not created equal. That's right. We could talk about this for a long, long time. Furthermore, the priority at any particular moment will change.
"What? I've got goals to reach, and I don't have the luxury of picking and choosing," you say. "I've got to keep it all going."
Yes, there are goals, I told Lisa. Let's look below the obvious — the dollars — and ask, "How do I get there?"
Money is not the driver in fundraising. Yes, you read that right.
It's not about the dollars as much as it's about your supporters — your donor investors — and your organization's relationship with them. Take a long look. How's your donor retention?
I suspect your rate of retaining donors from one year to the next is much lower and perhaps even less than you are prepared to admit. Here's a hint: The overall retention rate for nonprofit organizations is now just under 40 percent.
Commercial enterprises have an overall customer retention rate of over 95 percent. Say that to yourself, "ninety-five percent."
Companies who sell everything from cosmetics to automobiles are over 100 percent better at giving their customers and clients sufficient reason to come back than nonprofits are at getting a donor to do the same. OUCH!
Raising your retention rate just 10 percent will solve your immediate revenue needs. Think about it. Giving a donor sufficient reason to give again will meet the challenge of your monetary goals.
OK, now you've got your donors coming back and clamoring for more. Now what?
If your retention is high and many — if not most — of your supporters are at or near their true financial capacity, then the place to focus is acquiring new donors (even as you continue to retain your current investors). This broadens the base and allows for ongoing revenue growth. Think tilling a garden to the physical limit, then — and only then — adding additional acreage.
Principle 7 of The Eight PrinciplesTM is Renew & RefreshTM. By first renewing the commitment of those who already believe in you, then reaching out to bring others into the fold, you build a foundation and structure of fundraising that will weather even the foulest economic winds.
Now do those endless tasks have a little more definition in your mind? Look at them through the lens of either donor retention or donor acquisition. How do they appear? Think of a few that have now dropped from the "must" to the "if there's time" category. Perhaps others have dropped off the list altogether.
At the end of our conversation, Lisa sighed an audible sound of relief. I've asked her to let me know when she's reorganized her "to do" list and to share it with me. I can hardly wait!
I extend my thanks and very best wishes to Lisa. Assuming she follows through, Lisa will be looking backward to goals achieved as the year rolls on.
Let me hear from you concerning your particular situation and the challenges you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me (info@TheEightPrinciples.com), and I'll arrange a brief consult providing you with a practical solution. I'll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Success is waiting. Go out and achieve it!
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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