If your organization is on the verge of changing its approach to fundraising, you likely will need an experienced guide to institutional transformation. I have over twenty years of experience in helping non-profit organizations to achieve greater fundraising success.

Common Fundraising Missteps

If you recognize any of these challenges, and want an experienced guide to institutional transformation, give me call.

  • Many fundraisers shy away from face-to-face contact with donors. Many people treat major gifts fundraising as a high priesthood that requires either years of training, inherent charisma, or a rhinoceros hide. In fact, good manners and a smidgeon of ambition will get you a long way.
  • Many fundraisers focus too heavily on special events. Selling tickets to a gala is no substitute for sharing your passion for your organization with your donors and asking what excites them. Events play a role in sustainable fundraising, but it is a much smaller role than many organizations realize.
  • Many fundraisers do a lot of talking to donors and not enough listening to donors. It is a common and understandable misconception that donors who are better educated about your program will support provide greater support to your program. This leads to lots of time spent updating websites, publishing annual reports and newsletters, and the like. Excessive talking and inadequate listening in meetings with donors lead to missed opportunities. The fact is, people support non-profit organizations for a variety of reasons, and you won’t truly know any donor’s reasons if you don’t ask. A hearing aid is more valuable to your major gifts program than a megaphone.
  • Many fundraisers to do not allocate enough time and resources to cultivating the organization’s most promising donors and prospects. Most fundraisers allocate their time by checklists and calendars: events, foundation deadlines, mailing dates. It is much more productive to focus on a list of top donors and prospects and to think about how to advance each relationship.
  • Many fundraisers foster a disconnect between planning and donor conversations. Most organizations don’t share their aspirations with donors until the plans are board-approved and wrapped up in a fancy package. More fruitful solicitations come from asking donors for advice while the planning document is still pliable.
  • Many fundraisers neglect to effectively engage Board members in the fundraising process. This is the number one complaint of executive directors. Everyone can have a role in fundraising, and no one needs a personality transplant or a training seminar to do it…but enlisting Board members’ support needs to be done with tact and appreciation for their talents.
  • When staffing for major initiatives like capital campaigns, many fundraisers are unable to find an experienced fundraiser who understands the culture of the organization. Turnover in the fundraising field is legendary, and dashed expectations litter the non-profit landscape. But you can hire someone with a passion for your organization’s work and a background that equips him or her for success.

If you recognize any of these challenges, and want an experienced guide to institutional transformation, give me call.

Fundraising? In this economy?

People ask me “How can fundraisers succeed in the current economy?” I always tell them, “There seems to be money out there for organizations that are smart about their relationships with their donors.” Every donor’s financial landscape is different. And every organization’s list of prospects and donors is different. Therefore, this no economic upheaval that can completely foreclose upon all major gifts to non-profit organizations. In various economic times, I have secured gifts of $10,000 to $1 million from people whose wealth comes from a vast array of sources: an inventor of medical devices, a brain surgeon, heirs of the 3M, Pioneer Seed Corn, and Target, Maytag, and Reynolds Aluminum fortunes, the daughter of a collector of New England hydro-electric dams, stock market wizards and real estate investors. Don’t forget that lots of people with modest incomes who have lived frugally, invested wisely-and discovered at some point that they had more than enough-give money to non-profit organizations.

Wealth and Generosity

Over and over I have witnessed donors giving large gifts — six or seven digits — to small, scrappy organizations with big plans to make the world a better place.  Many organizations, when they start to look systematically at their volunteers, their donors, and their board members’ networks, find they are connected to a handful of people with significant resources.  Most campaigns generate at least half of their income from 10 donors.  Math suggests that it’s smart fund raising to create relationships with high-level philanthropists, and experience proves the math is right.

An organization can get a lot of mileage from foundation grants, a large pool of donors giving in the $25 – 500 range, income from events, and government grants.  But transformative gifts — and sustainability — only come with individual donors willing to write big checks. My entire adult life has been devoted to helping organizations equip themselves for “the big ask.” Most of them are outside of the philanthropic mainstream. And many of them have found that dramatic success is possible. If your individual giving program has room for growth, let’s talk.