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Three Keys to Combating Nonprofit Fundraising Challenges: Part One

The following is a guest post by Sally Boucher, CFRE, Director of Research for WealthEngine and manager of WealthEngine Institute, a knowledge center that provides fundraising practitioners research, education, networking and analysis of fundraising strategy.

The Three-Step Evolution of Effective Fundraising The Three-Step Evolution of Effective Fundraising

Part One: Professional Development and the Development Plan

The publication of Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising, a joint project of CompassPoint and The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund has fired up the nonprofit fundraising community. If you haven’t yet read the report, and have involvement in nonprofit fund development or nonprofit management, either as a development professional, executive director, or board member, you should study it. The report is based on a survey of over 2,700 executive directors and development directors across the country, and casts light on some significant challenges facing nonprofit fundraising, including:

  • Many development directors have insufficient experience or no experience securing gifts, and the applicant pool for many development jobs is woefully inadequate to meet the demand
  • Many development departments lack written development plans and even basic technological infrastructure such as a donor database or CRM
  • Executive directors and board members are often ambivalent about fundraising or have an outright dislike for asking for money
  • Development directors are often tasked with unrealistic goals and get little support from organizations, many of which lack a culture of philanthropy.

While these are not small challenges, they are not insurmountable. In this two-part blog series, I’d like to share resources that may help overcome or alleviate some of these challenges. Many of the resources are offered through the WealthEngine Institute, which we invite you to join free of charge.

Accessing Training & Professional Development

Training and professional development opportunities are important components of the ongoing education of development directors and officers, and also executive directors and program staff. More and more colleges and universities are offering curriculum, degree programs, post-graduate programs and certificates in fundraising and nonprofit management. If there is an institution of higher education in your vicinity, by all means check to see what they offer in the field of fund development. If not, many programs are offered online, and there are even free educational resources available through professional associations such as AFP, and consulting partners, like WealthEngine and GuideStar.

To help your organization’s leaders see professional development as an investment rather than an expense, tie training and professional development to the strategic goals or objectives of the organization. For instance, if one of the goals for the development team is to increase major giving, an investment in major gift training would be appropriate to help achieve that goal. This strategy worksheet provides the rationale for investing in training for major gift officers and other staff – even those tangentially involved in fundraising. Broad training covering the value of and processes used in fundraising will benefit efforts to establish a culture of philanthropy (see below). You can develop your own strategy and tactic worksheets using this template.

Creating a Development Plan

A development plan is a MUST first-step to creating a successful development operation. And prior to developing a plan, a thorough analysis of past operations and results is needed. Only by understanding where the organization’s strengths and weakness exist, can a competent development leader craft a plan that will improve results. WealthEngine’s Growing Individual Gifts Workbook provides step-by-step instructions and tools to guide you through the analysis, forecasting, strategy development and writing of a comprehensive development plan.

A development plan should be drafted by the development staff, with input from the executive director. Once finalized, the plan should be presented to the development committee of the board of directors, and then to the full board. The process of presenting the plan to the executive director, board committee and full board is an invaluable opportunity to educate these leaders about the importance of philanthropy, and their roles and responsibilities related to fundraising. With this accomplishment, you are on your way to creating a culture of philanthropy, which I’ll discuss next time.

Sally Boucher Sally Boucher

Sally Boucher, CFRE is Director of Research for WealthEngine, located in Bethesda, Maryland. She is the primary author of several publications, including Best Practices for Prospect Research in Higher Education Fundraising, Growing Individual Gifts: An Analytic Approach to Data-Driven Success and Fundraising’s Social Revolution: How Social Media is Changing Nonprofit Culture and Practice. Sally has provided fundraising and nonprofit management consulting services to non-profit organizations including disaster relief, faith-based and arts organizations. She often shares her knowledge via webinars and at various speaking engagements and conferences with AFP, CASE, APRA, and AHP.

Topics: Fundraising