8 Mistakes that Hurt Fundraising

July 3, 2020

Everybody makes fundraising mistakes. Hopefully, everybody learns from their mistakes. But, wouldn’t it be nice if we could learn from others’ mistakes without having to endure the error ourselves? Here are eight fundamental fundraising mistakes:

1: Treating Donors as ATM’s

This is my number one pet peeve and I have written many articles about it, like this one. Just because someone has the capacity to donate to your organization does not necessarily mean that they will. Donors have their own agendas and a great gift to your organization will come at the intersection of the donor’s agenda and the organization’s agenda.

2: Not Thanking Donors in a Timely Fashion (or even at all)

When I was a kid and received a birthday gift from my grandparents (who lived out of town), I was taught to immediately call them to thank them. It taught me gratitude and, more often than not, my grandparents were happier with the thank you call than I was with the gift.

If I were to call my grandparents a month after receiving the gift, it would’ve been rude and insulting. The same process goes for donors. Many times, donors are testing the organization. Is this a good place to invest in? Does the organization appreciate me? It all starts with a thank you.

3: Prospecting vs Upgrading

So many charities are focussed on acquiring new donors. While that is important, upgrading your existing donors is more important. New donors will likely come in at an entry-level donation and may even have a large acquisition cost.

I wrote about mining your own database for great sources of revenue here. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

4: Equating Corporate Money as the Best Source of Revenue

The bottom line of fundraising is that people give to people. And corporations are made up of people. The vast majority of donations come from individuals and Foundations (that are made up of people). That should be where you are focusing your efforts. I wrote about that here.

5: Not Investing in Fundraising Professionals

This has been a constant sore spot for me. I could probably paint my own house, but I use a professional so that it looks like a professional painted it. Sometimes, you get what you paid for.

Professional fundraisers are truly worth the investment. I wrote about the ROI expectations here. If charities are working on a 20% margin for the administration costs, that means that for a $100,000 investment the organization should see at least $500,000 in fundraising revenue. Most for-profit companies would drool over a return like that!

6: The Board Focussing on Governance Instead of Fundraising

Every organization needs to have good governance. I am not debating that at all. But, in my travels, I have seen many organizations solely focus on governance at the peril of a substantial fundraising program. Perhaps it comes down to Board expectations when they are recruited — were they recruited to help fundraise? Perhaps it is a level of being uncomfortable with fundraising. But likely, it is a lack of understanding of how every member of the Board can help fundraise. Sometimes, the help can take the form of assisting without specifically asking for money. You can check out my article about that here.

7: Treating Friendraising the same as Fundraising

While the build it and they will come mentality worked well in the Field of Dreams movie, it has little basis in reality with respect to fundraising. While all of the charities out there have a social media presence, few are able to objectively quantify how that presence has increased their revenues. What is a Facebook “like” worth these days? I have no idea.

I have yet to hear a supplier (bank, utility company, or office supplier) accept social media “likes” as payment for goods. It is the fundraising that brings the revenue in through the doors.

8: Not Writing a Case for Support

A case for support not only helps the prospect/donor understand what the organization’s plans are, but it also helps the canvasser. The canvasser should be familiar with the case inside and out. By involving the canvassers in the case creation, the inevitable questions are flushed out and addressed prior to the “live show”.

A case involves deliberate thought and planning. So does fundraising.

So there you have it. Eight fundraising mistakes that will ultimately hurt your fundraising efforts. Learn from others’ mistakes and forge a great new path.

Until next week.