Use the Word “Profit” to Get Your Board’s Attention!

stacks of moneyWho’s making the decisions about fundraising budgets and investments at your organization? Is it the board members? Is it the CEO?

Do these decision makers need to understand more about fundraising?

Sometimes fundraising staffers can’t get their leaders to consider important strategic investments in fundraising.

The problem is that the decision makers look at fundraising as a “cost center” and not as a “profit center.”

Another problem is that sometimes people making investment decisions often don’t really understand how fundraising works in terms of return on investment. I have had more than one CEO say to me, “I don’t know whether to believe my staff.”


Try using the word “Profit.”

I think we should all talk about “profit” more often. And why not?

Let’s talk about how much profit comes from our different fundraising strategies.

Show your leaders that investing in fundraising brings in a profit!

Show your leaders that investing in fundraising brings in a profit!

Let’s talk about “profitability” when it comes to staging galas, investing in direct mail, and investing in consulting or staff resources.

Let’s be much more business-like when sizing up opportunities!

Start using the word profit, and use it repeatedly!

Perhaps you’ll start getting your leaders to consider fundraising from a different point of view.

Then they will understand more clearly that investing in fundraising will bring a nice return on the money invested.

For example, investing $20k in really good direct mail should yield about $80k in revenue, if you have a list of responsive donors. Here’s an example.

Let’s educate our leaders to think differently about fundraising.

Here’s a great strategy to coax your leaders into making the right kind of fundraising investments:

The Carrot and Stick Approach

Here’s the Carrot:

Start discussing “how much money we are leaving on the table each year” because we don’t have the resources to go after it.

The idea of leaving money on the table is one that will get people’s attention.

Think with me for a minute – just how much money might be out there for your organization?

Working more with major donors always can add $$ to the bottom line.

Working more with major donors can always add $$ to the bottom line.

For example, major gifts is a likely source of untapped revenue.

You can almost certainly improve your fundraising bottom line if you had more time and resources to spend with your major donor prospects.

Try this:

  • Pull out or create a major gift prospect list.
  • Then add real dollar amounts or ranges of dollars next to the names of the wonderful people on your list.
  • Add up the dollar potential of your major gift prospects that is just sitting there on the table.

You will probably faint when you see just how much potential you are just sitting on if you had the time and staff to go after it.

I bet your total is a serious number that gets attention! Take your list and total to your leaders and ask them to brainstorm with you how we can find the time or staff to go after all this lovely potential.

Could you improve your bottom line with additional strategies? Almost certainly!

Here are some other ways you can probably improve your bottom line by making additional investments:

  • Online gifts: Could improving your website and donation page yield an increase in online gifts? Almost certainly so. Perhaps you could set a goal of increasing online giving by 10% – how much would that add to your bottom line?

    You could probably improve your email/direct mail results by 10% by making smart investments.

    You could probably improve your email/direct mail results by 10% by making smart investments.

  • Donor retention: Can better post-gift “customer service” increase donor retention?

You bet! Investing in a donor communications program could increase retention significantly.

If you could increase your donor retention by 10%, how much would that yield to your bottom line?

  • Fall fundraising campaign: How much more could you raise if you enhanced your year-end fundraising campaign?

Perhaps you could add more follow-up mailings or more communications channels. Could you increase your bottom line from your campaign by 10-15%? Possibly!

  • Events and auctions: Could you re-organize your gala, go after sponsors differently, or use a live auctioneer? Would any of these enhancements help you project a net increase of $10% or more?

Showing your leaders what your actual potential might be gets their attention.

When you show your leaders how much money you are leaving on the table, that will help them understand that investing in fundraising DOES bring terrific returns.

The Stick.

We have a carrot. And how we have a stick!

What’s the stick approach? It’s this phrase: “This money is not going to just walk in the door.”

I like that phrase because it’s not pleading for more resources. It can’t be perceived as whining or begging or “we just can’t do it all” – which never really works with higher-ups in my opinion.

Just go around talking about how “this money is just not going to walk in the door.”  You’ll gradually get through to people that something must change if they want to gain the resources that are just sitting out there for your organization.


Business-like wording will get your leaders’ attention. Try this approach, and you will eventually educate your decision makers on how fundraising really works today.

You’ll be happier, and your organization will enjoy higher fundraising totals.

This is a win-win strategy for everybody!


What do you think? Let me know with a comment!