How to kill your fundraising

If you’ve been in fundraising for more than a few years, and you work in an agency or consultancy — meaning you’re in touch with a lot of different nonprofit organizations — you start to notice some patterns.

One of the most discouraging of those patterns is the things organizations do that crush their fundraising results. There’s a handful of common activities that flatten revenue every time.

Sean Triner has seen the pattern too, and blogs about it at The first of two great ways to destroy your individual fundraising.

That first way to destroy fundraising? Investing in brand.

Really? Investing in brand hurts fundraising? That’s exactly opposite what it’s supposed to do! How can that be?

According to Sean, it’s not so much that branding hurts fundraising, but that money is diverted from fundraising to branding activities that’s the problem: “… the cost of achieving increased awareness is simply not worth it compared to investing that money in good fundraising, that in turn, increases awareness.”

Think of it this way: Would you rather get a large number of people vaguely aware that you exist — or get a smaller number of people to actually make a donation?

If a charity struggles with fundraising, then brand and brand awareness may well play a part, but spending money on building that awareness is not an effective solution. There are plenty of case studies of charities with no, or little brand awareness, succeeding in fundraising.

If you need to raise funds, you’re going to have to do fundraising. There really is no substitute.

(Sean’s second way to destroy fundraising income is to reduce your fundraising budget. Unfortunately, he’s all-too-right about that.)


Comments

2 responses to “How to kill your fundraising”

  1. Jeff, I agree wholeheartedly that you can never stop fundraising! Nonprofits shouldn’t delay fundraising to rebrand or, for that matter, during other significant change (like a change in leadership). With that said, well-done branding can lay a foundation for longer-term growth and income by giving an org the messaging and other elements staff often need to communicate effectively with donors. It’s a longer term strategy.
    A great set of key messages, powerful tagline, or effective visual system provides a platform any staff or board member can feel good about using and sharing, so their time is spent making the ask, not wringing their hands as they try to figure out what to write or say, and delaying. The trick is to keep the train moving and never stop fundraising even as you shore up or overhaul those elements that aren’t working, and that takes time.

  2. Jeff, I agree wholeheartedly that you can never stop fundraising! Nonprofits shouldn’t delay fundraising to rebrand or, for that matter, during other significant change (like a change in leadership). With that said, well-done branding can lay a foundation for longer-term growth and income by giving an org the messaging and other elements staff often need to communicate effectively with donors. It’s a longer term strategy.
    A great set of key messages, powerful tagline, or effective visual system provides a platform any staff or board member can feel good about using and sharing, so their time is spent making the ask, not wringing their hands as they try to figure out what to write or say, and delaying. The trick is to keep the train moving and never stop fundraising even as you shore up or overhaul those elements that aren’t working, and that takes time.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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