The Importance of Correcting Mistakes
If you are like me, you are a perfectionist. In some ways, that is an excellent trait and in others it becomes a learning experience. I always thrive for correctness and perfection in an imperfect world. The truth is the fundraising world is very complex and dynamic. We use simple tools and basic principles that we feel will provide easy answers for us. The truth is all of us make mistakes daily in our jobs. The question is do we know we are making mistakes and try to correct them, or do we assume the wrong way to do things is the right way to accomplish success?
In the Forbes article, “13 Common Fundraising Mistakes Made by New Nonprofit Organizations,” it is noted that with 1.5 million tax-exempt organizations in the U.S., trying to get a share of the fundraising pie can be a challenge. To seek positive outcomes in fundraising programs, especially in new programs, 13 members of the Forbes Nonprofit Council point out obvious errors in new fundraising programs (which can also be applied to old fundraising programs) that need to be corrected are:
- Lacking patience
- Insufficient planning
- Waiting until the last minute
- Communicating poorly
- Putting all of the golden eggs into one basket
- Being the “lone ranger”
- Trying to appeal to every funder
- Not doing your due diligence
- Switching up the goal post on your donor
- Taking the foot off the pedal
- Ignoring the importance of experience
- Focusing on pitches instead of relationships
- Thinking everybody loves your cause
Other mistakes noted by the Forbes Nonprofit Council made by nonprofits include poor communication with their donors, not sharing enough results, failure to measure impact, not showing your value to donors, and not focusing on relationship building. In another Forbes article, “Five Big Fundraising Mistakes Your Nonprofit Should Avoid,” the Council understands that every nonprofit needs to fundraise to keep its doors open, but also realizes you must connect with your donors and make sure they understand exactly what their dollars can do through your organization.
According to Social Velocity, mistakes include: taking the short-term approach to fundraising (look long-term), looking under the same rocks for donations year after year (research new prospects), chasing a magic bullet (create a financial plan for your nonprofit), giving people a free pass (tell your board and everyone that fundraising is their responsibility) and not fundraising for “The Fundraising Function” (invest in a quality fundraising staff, systems, priorities, plans, etc.)
The Fundraising Authority believes nonprofits make lots of fundraising mistakes. The article says that the biggest fundraising mistake nonprofits make is under-investing in their fundraising operations. The true root cause for this cause/effect is many nonprofits do not place enough value in their fundraising efforts and don’t see their development operations as an investment. Increased fundraising over time takes investment and nonprofits need to make that investment.
I believe making mistakes is a part of the organizational nonprofit world that we live in. For evaluation to occur, have an outside professional do an audit of your development operation to discover mistakes and errors that you may be taking for granted. Do not view mistakes completely as failures. View it as a part of the management process.
We should never just accept mistakes. Every attempt should be made to correct mistakes. The key is to realize what is right and wrong and can be corrected. If you invest in the development process and have the correct elements for success in place, the chance for mistakes will be reduced over time. Realize that mistakes will never be eliminated, and give your staff and yourself the opportunity to learn from them.
As Albert Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.