Exciting fundraising ideas that don’t work

Wouldn’t it be great to totally change the way your fundraising world and raise a lot more money for a lot less work?

Sure it would.

And it might be possible to find a way to do that.

But probably not.

Here are some common get-rich-quick schemes many nonprofits have tried, from the Get Fully Funded Blog, at Five Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits That Don’t Work:

  1. Self Pay. Some nonprofits are founded by people who made a fortune, then decided to use their fortune for good. So they start a nonprofit and fund it with their own money. I hate to criticize such a good deed, but it’s not smart, not sustainable, and is asking for trouble. Always find as many other supporters as possible! Even if you really don’t need to yet.
  2. Sole Source Funding. Same as above, but it’s someone or something else that’s footing the bill. Same nexus of problems, same solution. So if you have a board member who thinks he has an in with Warren Buffett, who he’s sure would gladly fund your entire budget with out blinking an eye, be cautious. You Mr. Buffett’s largesse could be your downfall. (And your board member is not as tight with him as he claims!)
  3. Fundraising Events. Events are the least efficient, effective, and sustainable way to raise funds. To maximize event revenue takes a lot of staff time. Time that would be far better spent doing many other things. On top of that, few event donors ever go beyond giving to the event. That is, you aren’t building relationships, you’re cultivating transactional on terms not great for you. There are some events that work very well. They are rare.
  4. Grants. They can be a meaningful part of a well-rounded funding portfolio, but they can also suddenly go away when granting organizations change their priorities.
  5. Crowdfunding. You’ve heard the stories of people who raised impressive amounts through GoFundMe or similar platforms. It happens. But it’s extremely rare. And a lot of that money is given anonymously, meaning you don’t have a relationship with a donor that can help fund you in a sustainable way. You just have some cash.

Let me add a couple more:

  • Amazon Smile. It’s not free money. And it’s not much money. Be careful. See Should you bother with Amazon Smile?
  • A massive awareness campaign. Maybe you’ve been approached by a branding or advertising agency with some big talk about making your brand famous and universally loved through some kind of awareness campaign. They don’t work. Run the other way. Even if the whole thing is pro bono, it’s going to make your life a misery for a very long time!
  • Buying Lotto Tickets. I’m pretty sure nobody is considering this strategy. But it belongs on this list because it’s just as “good” as the other things here!


Comments

4 responses to “Exciting fundraising ideas that don’t work”

  1. Mary P Walker Avatar
    Mary P Walker

    Excellent! So true! Thank you for giving me a voice of expertise to pass this on.

  2. Mary P Walker Avatar
    Mary P Walker

    Excellent! So true! Thank you for giving me a voice of expertise to pass this on.

  3. So what’s the right way?

  4. So what’s the right way?

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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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