Four Fundraising Mistakes to Avoid
I’ve been observing and learning from relationship mistakes in fund raising for 30 years, and there is usually a good intention behind every mistake that is made.
Often mistakes are made by well-motivated professionals who want to see the mission of their organization advanced. Many of these could be avoided by heeding the counsel of a seasoned coach, mentor, or teacher. I have had some of the best counsel a professional could dream of, and I will share a little of what I have seen and experienced with you.
It is my hope that by recognizing and steering clear of these common oversights, you may be able to be more effective in wooing financial partners to help expand the reach of your mission and vision.
Mistake #1— Neglecting to help the CEO and board members be successful in their role as fund raisers.
Remedy—Be proactive in helping them “win” with your supporters.
With so many priorities demanding their attention, the CEO and board members will welcome your setting aside time and energy to focus on this critical aspect for them.
There are some relationships only the CEO or a board member can cultivate effectively. Identify and collaborate on who they should stay in touch with, and then systematically prompt those calls and visits.
The result will be stronger relationships with donors—ultimately generating more resources for important ministry projects.
Mistake #2—Talking about facts and figures rather than reporting on the lives that are different as a result of your partnership with the giver.
Remedy—Focus more on stories about changed lives and less on details of programs or events.
Frequently asking “So what?” as you write newsletters and reports will help you and your team stay centered what your story needs to say to communicate the impact that the giver has made with their partnership.
The most compelling “so what’s” are related to lives that are touched because someone from your organization had an influence. Those may be hard to describe, but the impact of that kind of report makes it worthwhile to spend the extra time.
It is easier to write about facts and figures. It takes more thinking and more time to research the stories that describe significant changes that are taking place in people’s lives.
Mistake #3—Failing to have regular contact with your financial partners and supporters.
Remedy—pick up the telephone to call a giver quickly and often to say “thank you” or just to see how things are going.
It is so easy to put this off: I’ll do that tomorrow; I’ll put it on my “to do” list; The newsletter is coming out soon; They got a thank you in their receipt; They know “Bob,” and he will tell them thank you; I have pressing deadlines today.
This really doesn’t take that much time and these are such satisfying calls to make—for you as well as for the giver! A call is second in warmth only to a personal visit. If you make this a part of each day, you and your supporters will be happier. I can guarantee it.
Mistake #4—Not taking someone with you when you visit a donor.
Remedy—Don’t go by yourself. You know you can have a meaningful conversation with most people interested in your cause. But when you take someone along whose life is different today because of your organization’s outreach, or when you take a staff member who is on the front lines and can give an eyewitness account to the difference your programs are making, it is memorable and satisfying for the giver.
It takes more time, effort, and, sometimes more money to schedule a three-way appointment. It is worth it.
In other words, put the relationship with the giver at the center of all you do. This may seem pretty basic, but it is often disregarded.
Cultivating a culture of the basics provides a firm foundation for your fund raising dreams and aspirations.
Other often-overlooked basics include: developing a sound internal philosophy of fund raising, planning a well-rounded strategy, integrating your message across all channels, and getting the right people on your team. We’ll talk about these in future newsletters.
The other principals at OneAccord’s Not-For-Profit Practice and I know firsthand that the life-changing work our organizations accomplish depends on our effectiveness in recognizing and avoiding common mistakes.