Try a Carrot-and-Stick Approach With Your Nonprofit Board
Who's making the decisions about fundraising budgets and investments at your nonprofit? Is it your board members? Is it your CEO?
Do they understand a lot about fundraising?
Many of my colleagues tell me they have a terrific challenge getting their leaders to make strategic investments in fundraising. The problem is that the decision makers look at fundraising as a "cost center" and not as a "profit center."
I have had more than one CEO say to me, "I don't know whether to believe my staff." Whew.
I think we should all talk about profit more. Let's talk about how much profit we make from our different fundraising strategies. Let's educate our leaders to think differently about fundraising. Here's a great strategy to coax your leaders into making the right kind of fundraising investments:
The carrot-and-stick approach
First, the carrot: Start talking about how much money we leave on the table each year because we don't have the resources to go after it. Leaving money on the table gets people's attention.
For example, you can probably improve your fundraising bottom line if you had more time and resources to spend with your major-donor prospects.
Add up the dollar potential of your major-gifts prospects that is just sitting there on the table because you don't have the time and staff to go after it. I bet your total is a serious number that can get you attention!
Other ways you can improve your bottom line by making investments:
- Online gifts: Improving your website and donation page could yield a significant increase in online gifts.
- Donor retention: A stronger post-gift donor communication program can increase your donor retention. If you increased donor retention by 10 percent, how much would that yield?
- Fall fundraising campaign: Enhancing your year-end fundraising campaign with more follow-ups and more channels could significantly increase your bottom line.
- Events and auctions: Perhaps you can reorganize your gala and auction and project a net increase of 10 percent or more?
Explaining to your leaders how much money you leave on the table helps them understand that investing in fundraising does bring terrific returns.
Then the stick: What's the stick approach? Here's a phrase to use: "This money is not going to just walk in the door."
I like that phrase because it's not pleading for more resources. It can't be perceived as whining or begging or "we just can't do it all" — which never really works with higher-ups, in my opinion.
Try using this businesslike wording to get their attention, and you will eventually educate your decision makers on how fundraising really works today. You'll be happier, and your organization will enjoy higher fundraising totals. This is a win-win strategy!