Why are these 10 deadly nonprofit mistakes so common?

Weird thing: Andrew Olsen’s Fundraising Fundamentals blog recently featured this post: 10 bad decisions nonprofits make. I don’t know Andrew. I’ve never spoken to him. Yet if I were to come up with my own list of 10 bad nonprofit decisions, it would be pretty much the same as his:

  1. Operating without a strategic plan.
  2. Expecting nothing from your board.
  3. Not enforcing board term limits.
  4. Changing strategies and tactics that are working.
  5. Allowing people who aren’t fundraisers to make decisions about your fundraising.
  6. Stopping new donor acquisition. (This one is a hidden killer that can throw you into a financial death-spiral.)
  7. Not diversifying media channels.
  8. Not investing in talent.
  9. Not making major gifts a priority.
  10. Not taking stewardship seriously.

Why do these mistakes get made again and again and again? They’re made by people of good will and good intentions. Nonprofit leaders make these mistakes fully believing they’re doing something smart.

Here’s the problem: Too many of our leaders (executives and boards) are amateurs, operating by guesswork, instinct, and hunch. Not educated and experienced about the responsibility that has been trusted to them.

There are books, blogs, conferences, and more consultants than you can shake a stick at that can help you avoid these mistakes.

Are you (or your leaders) paying attention to the job?

We owe our donors and our causes nothing less.


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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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About the blogger

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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