Five Clues Your Fundraising is Headed Downhill

Don’t we all want fundraising that provides reliable, consistent, revenue?  chart trend

Money we can count on year after year?

But that kind of reliable success doesn’t just happen. It takes serious work and commitment.

And many organizations have a hard time getting it right.

As I travel around the country and work with so many boards, fundraising staff and ED’s, I frequently see frustration, worry and disappointment about fundraising.

We all got an eye-opener when the “Underdeveloped” Report came out a few months ago and caused massive discussion in our field. (Have you read it??)

Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising”

It pointed out that many organizations just were not developing the skills, systems and culture that would support effective fundraising over time.

So let’s look at the big picture today: You need to know the warning signs of trouble ahead.

I want to be sure your fundraising can consistently produce reliable results.

Storm clouds ahead for your fundraising?

Storm clouds ahead for your fundraising?

Here are 5 clues that your fundraising program is going to disappoint you:

1.  Revolving Door in the Development Office

There is an amazing amount of turnover of development directors in our business.

And when staff leaves, the offices are empty too long – many months and sometimes years.

What’s worse: Over 50% of development directors in the survey said they were planning to leave in 2 years or less.

So what happens when the job is empty?

Why is there a revolving door in so many fundraising offices?

Why is there a revolving door in so many fundraising offices?

  • Nobody is nurturing your donors or your fundraising infrastructure.
  • We all should understand that consistency is everything in fundraising.

You nurture donors by constant cheerful communications with them.

What happens when there is a long silence from you? Your donors drift away.

Leaving the development director position open for a long time is like shooting yourself in the foot.

Don’t do it.

Better yet – try to hang on to and support your current development director!

2. Laying All the Fundraising on One Person.

Wow, I could rant on this all day.

Too many board members and nonprofit staffers (including ED’s!) still think that fundraising is “dirty.”

They want to go out and do all the good work of helping people. But they dang well don’t want to get involved with donors, philanthropy, or “asking for money.” (They really don’t understand fundraising!)

So they saddle the poor development director with everything. Then they walk away – with relief that they don’t have to get their hands dirty.

Then when the poor development director asks for help, they throw up their hands and say “we can’t do THAT stuff!”

  • Fundraising can’t be a priority for just one individual.
  • It has to be a priority, and a shared responsibility, for the board, the executive director and the staff alike.

Your development director can’t bring in major bucks by herself.

Development directors need help - they can't do it alone!

Development directors need help – they can’t do it alone!

She needs help in lots of areas: identifying prospects, opening the door, cultivating and involving them, asking them, and calling donors to thank them.

3. Changing Fundraising Strategy Too Often

Have you ever tried a new fundraising strategy and it didn’t work?

And were you disappointed?

Did you and your leaders throw in the towel on the strategy because it didn’t work THE FIRST TIME you tried it?

  • This happens with direct mail appeals. “We sent out an appeal and we only made a little bit of money from it. Why bother?”
  • It happens when organizations try to start a monthly giving program. “We had this big hoopla and nothing really happened. Why bother?”

Well – guess what. It takes repeated, cheerful, consistent attention – over and over in front of your donors, friends, volunteers and supporters  – to get their attention.

Starting and stopping a strategy is like shooting yourself in the foot again.

Successful fundraising requires a long term outlook. It requires  a commitment to investing and supporting fundraising over time.

THAT”S what yields success!

4. Lacking An Internal Culture of Philanthropy

Here’s how the Underdeveloped Report defines a culture of philanthropy:

A set of practices that nurture and support fundraising in your organization.

  • Most people in the organization across positions act as ambassadors and engage in relationship building.
  • Everyone promotes philanthropy and can articulate a case for giving.

    Successful fundraising means everyone has a happy role to play in philanthropy.

    Successful fundraising means everyone has a happy role to play in philanthropy.

  • Fund development is viewed and valued as a mission-aligned program of the organization.
  • Organizational systems are established to support donors.
  • The Executive Director is committed and personally involved in fundraising.

So where are YOU in developing this culture?

How can YOU engage your leaders in considering how to strengthen your culture?????

5. Not Investing in Fundraising Infrastructure

Wonderful, well-meaning organizations want to spend every penny helping people and saving the world.

And they absolutely don’t want to spend money on the staff, systems, and data that create successful fundraising. Because that is not productive. Some consider it “wasted” if it doesn’t go to programming.

What happens when you starve your fundraising efforts?

Well, when you keep resources out of fundraising, then your dollar totals will NEVER GROW. And your organization will not grow any bigger, right?

  • When salaries are really low, your staff will leave for greener pastures.
  • When no one is consistently working on communications with donors, your donors will leave.
  • When no one is consistently keeping your data base cleaned up, your donors will interpret it as sloppiness and they will leave.

Then where are you?

You, my friend, are you a fundraising treadmill. You are caught in the “vicious cycle.”

What can YOU do to encourage a culture of philanthropy at your organization? : )

What can YOU do to encourage a culture of philanthropy at your organization? : )

And your results will not improve.

So let’s look at the bright side:

  • Isn’t it wonderful that we have this report to take to our leaders and engage them in discussions?
  • Isn’t it wonderful that we have a neutral outside study to help us ask for more help?
  • Isn’t it helpful for someone else to point out difficult issues so we don’t have to?

Want to learn how to create a culture of philanthropy to nurture and support fundraising at your organization?

My next Master Class on July 24 at 2pm ET will feature the very smart Alice Ferris, ACFRE.

We will discuss the key takeaways from the Underdeveloped Report and how YOU can strengthen YOUR internal culture of philanthropy.

Bring your board members to this important strategic discussion!

Find out more and register here.