Balance: The Fundraiser's Best Friend
I recently was asked a question by a person new to fundraising. She wondered what some of the best strategies were for a nonprofit expanding to a new geographic region. How could the organization "hit the ground running," as it were, with its fundraising?
That's a good question for any nonprofit team, and especially for fundraisers. I doubt there are many communities just waiting with eager anticipation for another cause asking for their money. Yes, they may truly want a nonprofit to come to town and address a genuine need, but in general, people aren't at a loss for options of where to invest their philanthropic dollars. Good causes aren't rare, so it's tough for the "new kid" — or one that has been around a while but wants to expand its reach — to break out of the pack and capture market share.
As I contemplated my response to this question, I kept coming back to one reality: balance. It's that old saying coming back to haunt us in 21st-century fundraising: We can't put all our eggs in one basket. Sustainable fundraising needs multiple options; that way, if one "goes bad," you can rely on other sources for funding.
But this leads to reality No. 2: It costs money to raise money. Email is cheap — but email may also have an abysmal clickthrough rate. Silverpop estimates that for nonprofits, it averages about 4 percent. Direct mail has a 5 percent response rate or even 10 percent on a good day, but it costs a lot more. Face-to-face is highly effective when done well, but staff with the necessary skills may be limited. Events drain time from staff and volunteers and may not result in many sustainable donors.
No perfect answer
In other words, there is no perfect fundraising tool. We can argue pros and cons of them all for days and never come to consensus.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.