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The Top 3 Mistakes Non-Profits Make in Fundraising

Joe Garecht

Non-profit fundraising can be a grueling business. When everything is clicking, there’s no better job to have…but when your organization is stuck in a rut and can’t seem to break free, every hour can seem like torture.

As non-profit managers and fundraising professionals, we like to think that fundraising plateaus are out of our control – and sometimes they are. Yet, far too often, it is within our power to break free of the rut and reach a new level for our organization and the people we serve. The key to doing so is to recognize the mistakes we are making and understand how to correct them. Here, in my experience, are the top 3 fundraising mistakes made by non-profit organizations:

#1 Not Thinking Big Enough

Thinking big is scary. Setting lofty program goals requires setting ambitious fundraising goals. And setting ambitious fundraising goals means stretching our resources and our staff to hit our targets. It’s far easier to set incremental goals: raise 5% more at our event this year, increase our donor file by 100 really solid names.

Don’t fall into this trap! Thinking big and setting audacious goals is motivating to your staff and attractive to your donors. Your supporters and prospects want to get caught up in a huge vision, one much bigger than themselves, that allows them to make a major difference in the world. It’s up to you to think big enough that they can’t help but get involved and fund your mission.

#2 Not Being Organized Enough

I can’t begin to tell you how many non-profits I have worked with that set new goals or launch new fundraising programs without a clear, written strategy. There are thousands of organizations that run events without an event plan, keep donor contact information on file but have no idea where there prospects are in the prospect funnel, and ask board members to call a list of names without ever following up and tracking the responses that are received.

No matter how small or large your organization, you will never maximize your fundraising potential without getting your development program organized. You don’t need a 78 page plan for every fundraising event that you hold or every mailing that you take to the post office. What you do need, though, is a clear list of what needs to be done, who is responsible for doing it, and what the deadlines for completion are.

#3 Not Spending Enough Time and Effort Cultivating Donors

While many development consultants would say that too many non-profits spend all of their time cultivating donors and never get to the ask, I would argue that the vast majority of non-profits are doing just the opposite: they’re not spending enough time and effort cultivating their prospects and donors. Sure, they may wait six months from the initial meeting before they make their ask, but how much time and effort are they spending on that donor in the meantime? Usually the outlay is very minimal.

Fundraising is all about building relationships. Just as you can’t build a friendship without seeing, talking to, and socializing with another person, you can’t build a fundraising relationship without calling, meeting with, and communicating with your prospect. Invest more time and effort into your prospects, and they will reward you with larger and more frequent gifts.

Joe Garecht is a fundraising consultant, author, and speaker based in Philadelphia. He is the founder of The Fundraising Authority, which offers hundreds of articles and tips on how to raise more money at non-profit organizations.

Topics: Fundraising