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Stop Blaming Fundraising: 8 (Other) Ways to Improve Your Bottom Line

Sometimes fundraising gets a bad rap. Actually, it gets a bad rap most of the time. Hang out with nonprofit leaders anywhere and you'll hear phrases like these:

"Fundraising is hard."

"Nobody likes to fundraise." 

"We don't have a development person/department."

"There's too much competition/we're all chasing after the same money."

While I don't dispute that fundraising can be a challenge, (just look at how many people and companies are dedicated to helping nonprofits find funding) I also know that we tend to use the difficulty of fundraising as a scapegoat for poor revenue results. Saying "nobody likes to fundraise" is beside the point when we consider all of the things that organizations need to have in place BEFORE they can expect to get support from others. 

It's like wanting to eat a delicious meal but not having any of the ingredients - and then saying "well, nobody wants to cook." The point that nobody wants to cook is moot when you realize that there's nothing to work with anyway.

Poor fundraising results are the PRODUCT, not the problem. In order to have success in asking for support, organizations have to get a LOT of other things right, like:

  1. Having a relevant mission and inspirational vision. Just because an organization's mission is/was important to its founder(s), doesn't mean it will be relevant to a wider audience. Do market research, find out who already works in your space, and determine what type of impact you'll need to make in order to be relevant to your community. And, just because your mission was relevant once upon a time, doesn't mean that it has endured. Check in with members/donors/participants and assess whether your mission is continuing to meet needs in its current form. Next, ensure that you are painting a vivid picture of the future that supporters can grab onto and remember. How will things be different when your mission is carried out? Future donors need to see it and believe it.
  2. Explaining a clear and impactful value proposition. Unlike your mission and vision, a value proposition is all about the impact supporters can make through your organization. How appealing is the impact they can make? Can they make the same type of impact anywhere else? How easily can they understand the impact? And, how believable is it? Can donors realistically end the hunger crisis with a gift of $50 or, rather, can they help you provide a week's worth of meals to a family of four with a gift of $50? Appealing, exclusive, clear, and credible* value propositions help would-be supporters see themselves participating in your mission. 
  3. Articulating ideas that engage and excite. Whether it's through regular cultivation emails, blog posts, newsletters, video channels, or any other media, providing education and thought-leadership to your community will help supporters understand the issues and inspirations that drive your mission. Remember that your audience doesn't fully know or understand your organization the way you do - give them an inside look at what makes your team tick. 
  4. Providing service-delivery excellence. To put it plainly, your organization must do a good job and be effective at carrying out its mission. Strive to be the best in your field so that donors and supporters have confidence and trust in the work you do. Because even the best marketing and fundraising in the world cannot make up for deficiencies in the way you conduct business.
  5. Building a community of fans and advocates. Play the role of connector for the people who love and support your mission. Creating community gives donors the opportunity to interact with likeminded people. It also fuels enthusiasm and gives members a sense that they are part of something bigger than themselves.  There is power in numbers.
  6. Capturing accurate and informative data. Data is everything. The right data can guide your programming, messaging, fundraising, and your ability to stay relevant. Data, about your members, donors, or sector, can have important implications for every aspect of your organization today and in the future.
  7. Asking the right people at the right time. Rinse. Repeat.  At some point, fundraising becomes a proverbial "numbers game" and success will be relative to the number of times you ask the right people for money at the right time. If your results aren't where you want them to be, consider whether you're asking enough people enough times.  (Keep in mind that the donor's "right time" may not be the same as your idea of the right time.)
  8. Thanking in unique in meaningful ways. An appropriate thank you (or any acknowledgment at all) can pave the way for additional gifts. Study after study has shown that as many as 50% of organizations don't send thank you letters - or any follow up messages - after a gift is made.  Don't be one of them. 

Fundraiser: Why did you give?

Donor: Because I was asked.

Fundraiser: Why did you give again?

Donor: Because I was thanked.

As you well know, a lot of work goes into creating the type of organization that attracts attention and funds. It isn't simply a matter of using the latest and greatest fundraising tech & strategies. But know that, whether you love fundraising or loathe it, you can increase your likelihood of success by focusing on these eight critical areas. Don’t use the difficulty of fundraising as a cover for not doing all the things that make people want to support you. 


*Source: Why Should I Give to You? NextAfter


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