13 fundraising mistakes to avoid

You can learn a lot from your mistakes. If your mind is open, you can learn from other people’s mistakes too.

Here’s a post from The Nonprofit Alliance Blog with 13 fundraising Mistakes. Having seen most of these mistakes myself, I can tell you — these are things to avoid!

  1. Cutting acquisition quantity to improve this year’s fundraising ratios, but destroying your future revenue stream in the process.
  2. Hiring the wrong major gift leader. You don’t want a major gift leader who meddles with your successful direct response program instead of visiting with donors. Major gift officers should generate major gifts.
  3. Letting brand dictate fundraising messages instead of mandating that brand reinforce fundraising messages.
  4. Getting seduced by a consultant who claims to be able to acquire “higher value donors” and ending up getting too few donors to sustain your organization.
  5. Setting a target for your capital campaign but forgetting to include two years of operating budget in the total. The new building or new programs always cost more to operate than your current budget,
  6. Cutting revenue-producing programs to address a budget shortfall. Increasing the direct response budget by $50,000 raises $150,000 — with a net of $100,000 to solve the revenue shortfall.
  7. Accepting Watchdog standards. Teach donors to judge you by the impact of your programs, not by arbitrary – and often misleading — cost ratios.
  8. Chasing blindly after the next big thing. Protect your core revenue streams, and budget separately for R&D into new approaches with dollars you can afford to lose.
  9. Making it look too easy. If people take your fundraising programs for granted, they’ll be tempted to water them down by mistakenly cutting frequency or insisting on more stories of success and less emphasis on need and urgency.
  10. Forgetting to test. Why would anyone abandon a control for something new without testing?
  11. Believing that you are the target audience. Meet the donors where they are, rather than where you wish they were.
  12. Being so afraid of being called a micro-manager that you don’t manage enough.
  13. Being afraid to fire someone. If someone is not succeeding in his position, he is hurting the cause you represent and likely demoralizing other employees.


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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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