Tuesday, June 1, 2010

3 Keys to Successful Fundraising in Good Times and Bad

I was just having this conversation yesterday...giving is down, times are hard, nonprofits are suffering.  Having said that, I also believe that dwelling on that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you and your organization are having that conversation, it's time to read Sandy Rees' article and pass it around at the next board meeting.  I completely agree, attitude is half the battle.  Bunnie

3 Keys to Successful Fundraising in Good Times and Bad

by Sandy Rees, CFRE

Raising money can be tough, no matter what the economy is doing.

It’s not easy to raise money in a recession. There’s a lot of fear and worry about what will happen. Will people donate? Will they donate as much as last year? What do we do if they don’t?

Your mind and your attitude play a HUGE part in your success as a fundraising. Take this short quiz to see what your attitude toward fundraising this year really is.

True/False quiz

1. Fundraising this year is going to be hard.

2. People aren’t going to give as much as last year.

3. We probably won’t reach our fundraising goals this year.

4. We should probably lower our fundraising goals this year.

5. Things are bad everywhere.

6. All nonprofits are struggling.

7. It’s just the economy and there’s nothing we can do about it.

If you answered “true” to some, most, or all of these questions, you need a major shift in your thinking! No doubt that we’ve all thought one or two or all of these things at one point or another. The trick is to recognize this kind of negative thinking and stop it in its tracks.

Key #1. Get your head in the game.

Your attitude will ultimately determine your success or failure. Before you begin fundraising, it’s critical to get your head in the game.

Don’t assume the economy is affecting people negatively. Many people are just scared and still have money to give. If you assume people won’t give and you stop asking for money, they WILL stop giving.

DON’T get scared and slip into a message of doom and gloom. Stay positive. Stay focused. The minute you buy into the “stinkin thinkin,” your fundraising efforts will start to slide.

Successful fundraising depends on many factors, but it mostly depends on you, the fundraiser. Your knowledge, ability, and attitude determine whether or not you will be successful in reaching your goals. Here are the ten tips to being a successful fundraiser and keeping your head in the game.

1. Have passion for the cause. You must believe deeply in the work you are doing before you can successfully engage other people. Your passion and enthusiasm for the work your organization does is contagious and will attract others.

2. Show genuine concern for people. The more genuine concern you show for the people around you – coworkers, volunteers, donors, etc. – the more likely you will be able to engage them in fundraising. With donors, it’s critical to put their needs first over the needs of the organization.

3. Know yourself. Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Play to your strengths and work on your weaknesses.

4. Believe in yourself. Don’t take it personally if a donor says “no.”

5. Have an attitude of gratitude. Be sincerely grateful to anyone and everyone who helps your organization achieve its mission. Thank donors, thank volunteers, thank the custodian. Thank everyone.

6. Listen well. You were given 2 ears and 1 mouth. Use them accordingly.

7. Nurture your eagerness to learn. Never think that you know it all. Be a lifelong learner. You’ll be more likely to stay ahead of trends and find new ways to raise support.

8. Willingness to work with others. Fundraising is not a solo sport. You must be able to function on a team. Play nice and remember, there’s no I in TEAM.

9. Be flexible. Go with the flow. Don’t get your feathers ruffled at change.

10. Be organized. Manage all your resources, including your time and creativity. When your workspace is tidy, your creativity has more room to expand.

If you’re afraid of what might happen (or not happen) this year, you're not alone. Lots of people are concerned about fundraising. But you can’t let it control you or dictate your actions.

Believe in abundance. There is plenty of money out there for all of us. If everyone in the United States who currently gives to charity would give just 1% more, we’d all be cash-flush! Billions of dollars are donated to nonprofits every year. Our job is to give donors the chance to support OUR nonprofit. Believe in the abundant resources that are out there and you’ll find fundraising easier.

Don’t assume that people won’t give. The truth is that you don’t know WHAT people will do until you give them the opportunity.

Don’t get or sound desperate. People don’t want to support a sinking ship. They want to support organizations that are solid and have a strong game plan.

Speak from your heart and your passion. Enthusiasm is contagious, so spread yours about your cause.

Key #2. Evaluate where you are.

Have a look at the “State of the Union” of your organization or your fundraising efforts. Trim any fundraising activities that aren’t productive. This may not be popular, but it might be necessary.

Cut back expenses where you can. But don’t cut your nose off to spite your face. (Don’t trim your expenses so far that it hampers your ability to deliver service or fundraise effectively!).

Don’t cut back on renewing donors or acquiring new ones. It’s tempting to do this just to save a few dollars, but it’s not worth it. Consider this: Every year, you lose as many as 35% of your donors (don’t believe me? Go have a look.) You must keep acquiring new donors or your donor base will one day shrink to nothing.

Review all your fundraising activities. Leverage and enhance those that are working. Drop those that aren’t.

Key #3. Move forward.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. All great nonprofits started somewhere, so just get moving.

Stay focused on your mission. No matter what else happens, stay true to your mission. After all, that’s the main reason you’re here, right?

Be clear about your goals. Know what you’re trying to accomplish and be able to celebrate when you reach your goals. If you don’t have a written fundraising plan, get one! Having a plan in writing will help keep everyone on the same page and working in unison.

Go back to the basics – get the word out, tell your stories, build relationships. Repeat. You will never go wrong following these basic steps. Tell your stories, tell your stories, tell your stories. This is what donors want to hear.

Love on your donors. Make sure you thank every donor every time. This is no time to skimp on acknowledgement! It’s simple and cheap to thank a donor and the benefits can be great!

Be sure to show your appreciation to your best donors – those folks who are there for you in good times and bad. Don’t ever take them for granted. Be sure that they are clear how much you value their support.

Build relationships with your mid-range donors. This is an often-ignored group in our databases. Pay attention to those people who can rise up and become bigger or major donors.

When you do the right things at the right time for the right reasons, you can be successful in raising money for your organization, regardless of the economy.

contact Sandy at http://www.getfullyfunded.com


  1. Great article. I shared it on my blog at www.letsbuildnebraska.blogspot.com!

  2. Thanks for sharing - really enjoyed reading this article! I've recently discovered Tony Charalambides fundraising blog - you should check it out.