5 Clues Your Fundraising Is Headed Downhill
Don't we all want fundraising that provides reliable, consistent revenue? Money we can count on year after year?
Sure, but that kind of reliable success doesn't just happen. It takes serious work and commitment. And many organizations have a hard time getting it right.
Here are five clues that your fundraising program is going to disappoint you:
1. Revolving door in the development office
There is an amazing amount of turnover of development directors in our business. And when staff leaves, the offices are empty too long — many months and sometimes years.
What's worse: More than 50 percent of development directors in a recent survey said they were planning to leave in two years or less.
So what happens when the job is empty? No one is nurturing your donors or your fundraising infrastructure.
We all should understand that consistency is everything in fundraising. You nurture donors by constant, cheerful communications with them. When there is a long silence from you, your donors drift away.
Leaving the development director position open for a long time is like shooting yourself in the foot. Don't do it. Better yet — try to hang on to and support your current development director!
2. Laying all the fundraising on one person
Wow, I could rant on this all day. Too many board members and nonprofit staffers (including executive directors!) still think that fundraising is "dirty." They want to go out and do all the good work of helping people. But they dang well don't want to get involved with donors, philanthropy or "asking for money." (They really don't understand fundraising!)
So they saddle the poor development director with everything. Then they walk away, relieved that they don't have to get their hands dirty.
Fundraising can't be a priority for just one individual. It has to be a priority, and a shared responsibility, for the board, the executive director and the staff alike.
3. Changing fundraising strategy too often
Have you ever tried a new fundraising strategy and it didn't work? And were you disappointed? Did you and your leaders throw in the towel on the strategy because it didn't work the first time you tried it?
- This happens with direct-mail appeals: "We sent out an appeal, and we only made a little bit of money from it. Why bother?"
- It happens when organizations try to start monthly giving programs: "We had this big hoopla, and nothing really happened. Why bother?"
Well, guess what? It takes repeated, cheerful, consistent attention — over and over in front of your donors, friends, volunteers and supporters — to get their attention.
Starting and stopping a strategy is like shooting yourself in the foot again. Successful fundraising requires a long-term outlook. It requires a commitment to investing in and supporting fundraising over time. That's what yields success!
4. Lacking an internal culture of philanthropy
A culture of philanthropy is a set of practices that nurtures and support fundraising in your organization.
- Most people in the organization across positions act as ambassadors and engage in relationship building.
- Everyone promotes philanthropy and can articulate a case for giving.
- Fund development is viewed and valued as a mission-aligned program of the organization.
- Organizational systems are established to support donors.
- The executive director is committed and personally involved in fundraising.
So where are you in developing this culture? How can you engage your leaders in considering how to strengthen your culture?
5. Not investing in fundraising infrastructure
Wonderful, well-meaning organizations want to spend every penny helping people and saving the world. And they absolutely don't want to spend money on the staff, systems and data that create successful fundraising. Some consider it "wasted" if it doesn't go to programming.
What happens when you starve your fundraising efforts? When you keep resources out of fundraising, your dollar totals will never grow. And your organization will not grow any bigger, right?
- When salaries are really low, your staff will leave for greener pastures.
- When no one is consistently working on communications with donors, your donors will leave.
- When no one is consistently keeping your database cleaned up, your donors will interpret it as sloppiness and they will leave.
Then where are you? You, my friend, are on a fundraising treadmill. You are caught in the "vicious cycle." And your results will not improve unless you pull your fundraising efforts out of it.