A few of the biggest fundraising mistakes

Photo by jaredchapman

What are the biggest blunders, oversights or mistakes in fundraising? Well, The Relentlessly Practical Guide to Raising Serious Money lists the twenty biggest fundraising mistakes you or your organization can make.

Today we are going to look at a few of those mistakes that I think many people make (these are excerpted from The Relentlessly Practical Guide to Raising Serious Money):

  • Failing to Cultivate Donors: Cultivation, a sustained effort to inform and involve your prospects, is needed for practically every gift—the bigger the gift, usually the more preparatory steps needed. The best cultivation, which uses a mixture of printed matter, special events, and personal attention, takes place slowly over a period of time, sometimes years. If there’s any secret to it, it is being yourself and cultivating people the way you would want to be cultivated. That is, with simple sincerity, not glitzy programs. Donors give more when they can visualize an organization not as an organization but as people. Achieving that end is, in essence, the goal of all successful cultivation programs. *Gifts like these don’t often drop out of the sky, they take months if not years of cultivation.
  • Thinking Your Organization Will Attract Support Simply Because It’s a Good Cause: Just because you have a good cause—one of thousands, really—doesn’t mean money will wend its way to you. Organizations must attract support the old-fashioned way—earn it. Giving away money is something we all do reluctantly, and it’s hardly an instinctive act. Nonetheless, people will support you if you present them with a challenging project that is consistent with their interests. To succeed, you must explain exactly why you seek the funding, why your project is compelling, who will benefit, and why the money is needed now. In other words, your needs—presented as opportunities—must be specific, people-oriented, and have a sense of urgency. Keep in mind, always, that people give in order to get. They don’t simply want to give away their money; they want to feel they’re investing it and getting something in return. *This is often seen in smaller, newer nonprofit organizations and in organizations that get most of their money from government or foundation sources. Building a individual donor program is very important for all organizations.
  • Failing to Thank Your Donors: Thanking donors, besides being polite, is an act of cultivation—and a smart one. People appreciate when their generosity is recognized. They not only feel closer to your organization, they’re inclined to continue giving. Most important with thank yous is to acknowledge gifts positively and quickly. You want the donor to know that your trustees are aware of the gift, that his or her generosity will stir others to give, and that your organization will put the money to good use. Board members can be especially effective in expressing appreciation, either by sending notes or by making telephone calls to selected donors. *Don’t underestimate the impact of a personal phone call to a donor to thank them for their gift- no matter the size of gift.
  • Failing to Have a Strong Rationale: Before setting out to raise money, each organization must think through the rationale for its appeal: why do the funds need to be raised, what will they achieve, and who will benefit? The mere fact that you and your board need money won’t stir people, no matter how well organized your effort. Rather, with your case for support you must move your prospects emotionally and intellectually. They need to feel that, by contributing to your organization, life will in some way be better for them, for their children and grandchildren. They need to sense that their community—or even the nation—will be advanced as a result. *This is extremely important and can make or break your fundraising goals. I serve on the Board of Directors of Pet Haven, a nonprofit animal rescue, which is an organization that does an excellent job of having a strong rationale. Every ask they send out, they send information on one or two new intakes (dogs or cats) with their story and why they need money. To read an example of one of their “stories”, click here.

If you want to read the full list of all top twenty mistakes from the book, GuideStar published Part I and Part II, which lists all of the biggest fundraising mistakes.


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