13 ways your fundraising plan could go sideways

What goes wrong for fundraisers?

A lot of things can turn all your hard work into a big pile of failure.

From the Bloomerang Blog, here are 13 Common Mistakes Small Nonprofits Make in Their Fundraising Plan. (And really, many of these are also problems for big nonprofits too!)

  1. Too busy. Getting overwhelmed with too much stuff is probably the most common cause of failed fundraising projects. Plan realistically for what you can actually accomplish. Get outside help if you need it!
  2. Need it to be RIGHT. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress.
  3. Analysis paralysis. It’s true the more information is usually good. But at some point, you have to make decisions with what you have.
  4. Unclear goals. If you have a vague goal like “raise more money,” you don’t really have a goal.
  5. Wrong-size goals. Good goals should stretch you, but they shouldn’t be impossible. Be ambitious but realistic.
  6. Planning based on emotion, not data. One of the strangest things about fundraising is you have to learn to communicate emotionally, but you also have to approach your work with pure rationality. Don’t go with your gut on fact-based decisions.
  7. Unrealistic Board expectations. Don’t expect your board to do it all.
  8. Imaginary plan. If your plan isn’t in writing, you don’t really have a plan. And if you don’t have a plan, you are virtually guaranteed to fail.
  9. No resources for execution. Make sure you are equipped to fully execute everything you intend to do. Otherwise you’re wasting time and money.
  10. No details. Know how you’ll get from point A to point B!
  11. Overestimating YOU. Sure, you’re great. But you can’t do everything. Be realistic about your time and your abilities.
  12. Too many events. Events are among the least profitable ways to raise money. They are also among the most time-intensive. Don’t depend on events.
  13. Lack of fundraising diversity. Build as many fundraising revenue streams as you can. We are in a fast-changing environment, and whole channels can quickly lose their viability. Diversify so you aren’t caught without options.


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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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