The foolproof path to fundraising excellence

Recently in a Moceanic Office Hours webinar, I was talking about the disturbing trends in fundraising: Dropping response rates, rising costs, shrinking retention. Then I noted that these are industry-wide numbers; many organizations are doing better and they’re moving in the opposite direction — growing, not shrinking.

And the difference, most of the time, is fundraising excellence. Do stuff right, and you aren’t a prisoner of the dismal trends.

Then one of the webinar attendees said something that stopped me cold: Excellence is so intimidating!

It stopped me because I knew exactly what she meant.

Fundraising is difficult and complex. It’s always changing. It’s no small task to do it at all, much less with excellence.

So when some dude in a webinar says All you have to do is be excellent, you just might say Get real!

It’s a lot easier to talk about excellence than it is to do it. When you’re new at anything, you’re not very good at it. And anyone, no matter how experienced, can (and does) make mistakes.

So let me leave you with this thought: Excellence really is your secret weapon. But excellence is not just a switch you can turn on.

Excellence is a process:

  • You learn as much as you can — through books, blogs, conferences, classes, webinars, and (best of all) mentors.
  • You keep donors in the front of your mind always.
  • You learn to be skeptical of your own and others’ preferences.
  • You do your best to apply what you discover.
  • Most of all, you learn from your mistakes. If you aren’t making mistakes you are probably not approaching excellence!

Do those things and you will be excellent. Maybe only slightly excellent at first, but a little more all the time. And every small improvement helps — and is the foundation for all the steps that follow.

It’s not easy, but anyone can do it.

So if you feel you are not excellent, take a step, even a tiny step, in the direction of excellence. That’s the only way anyone ever gets there.


Comments

2 responses to “The foolproof path to fundraising excellence”

  1. I hope that’s what holding organizations back, the feeling of “Where do begin?” and “Will I ever get there?” Because that feeling can disappear with small victories.
    I hope it’s not “We don’t believe it will make a difference.”
    People who have been in the field a lot longer than I have are not sure why nonprofits continue to do the things that don’t work and don’t invest time (let alone money) in the things that do.

  2. I hope that’s what holding organizations back, the feeling of “Where do begin?” and “Will I ever get there?” Because that feeling can disappear with small victories.
    I hope it’s not “We don’t believe it will make a difference.”
    People who have been in the field a lot longer than I have are not sure why nonprofits continue to do the things that don’t work and don’t invest time (let alone money) in the things that do.

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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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