Declare Independence from Poor Fundraising
It's time to declare our independence from poor fundraising. Americans—and others around the world—are remarkably generous. According to Giving USA, charitable gifts in the U.S. topped $400 billion for the first time last year.
While we should all be grateful for and celebrate this remarkable commitment of philanthropy, giving in the USA as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP) has hovered around 2 percent for decades and in recent years appearing to inch up to 2.1 percent.
As a sector, we can and must do more. The needs are too great. The role of the nonprofit sector is too important.
We recently celebrated Independence Day, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. This was a bold move. Many of the signers of the declaration lost their lives and their wealth as a result.
So, in the spirit of America’s founding fathers, who declared the 13 colonies a new nation and independent from Britain, let’s be bolder in growing our nation’s culture of philanthropy—and across the world as well!
Fundraising is an established profession, with a body of knowledge and validating research, educational programs including degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level and certifications. Too often, we allow well-meaning staff and volunteers to undermine our profession and our credibility, shortchanging the results that our worthy organizations could achieve.
Let’s be more proactive—yes more assertive—in our roles as professionals. Let’s declare freedom from those who derail progress in increasing philanthropic support for the worthy organizations and vital missions we are honored to work on behalf of.
Let’s declare independence from the following poor fundraising practices:
- Not understanding that philanthropic fundraising is different than political fundraising or economic development efforts.
- Failure to differentiate between marketing communications and fundraising communications.
- A lack of accountability for goals.
- Not focusing on deepening relationships with all donors and a focus on the donors who enable us to make the largest impact.
- Unwillingness to invest in vital fundraising planning research.
- Failure to think long-term and invest in capacity building.
- Boards who do not fulfill their legal fiduciary responsibilities—and a moral obligation to donors to be good stewards of their gifts.
- Failure to have measurable outcomes.
- Doing more asking than thanking.
- Asking inappropriately—too soon, too large, too small…
- Board members who do not support your organization at a leadership level.
- Dependence on events and grants, rather than a focus on individual donors.
As fundraising professionals, we must work each day to ensure that our CEOs, senior staff and board members are willing to make the commitment and invest in a truly professional fundraising program. This will deepen the culture of philanthropy not only within our organizations but across the U.S. and beyond.
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.