One of my favorite parts of the longest job I ever held was that my boss welcomed innovation. If I attended a conference or read an article, and learned about something new I thought we should be doing, she was all ears. We talked out the pros and cons, together. Usually we made a plan…Details
It’s simple. And it works.
You see, penny-wise fundraising may seem smart. You may pat yourself on the back for working “lean and mean.” But, in actuality, lean and mean is the antithesis of how a nonprofit becomes successful.
Penny-wise fundraising ends up being nothing more than mean.
- Mean to the people to whom you pay pauper’s wages.
- Mean to the staff you overwork.
- Mean to the volunteers you burn out.
- Mean to the clients you can’t afford to help.
- Mean to the donors to whom you’re unable to offer satisfying philanthropic investment opportunities.
- Mean to the community you can’t afford to serve.
Penny-wise fundraising takes you down exactly the wrong pathway.
- Pathway to the nonprofit cycle of starvation.
- Pathway to buying what’s cheap, not what’s effective.
- Pathway to a culture of scarcity and need, rather than abundance and philanthropy.
- Pathway to a culture of resentment, rather than gratitude.
- Pathway to colluding in the nonprofit overhead myth.
You May Think You’re Being Smart, But You’re Not
Penny-wise fundraising reveals an underlying attitude fundraising is a “necessary evil.’ So… why not invest as little as possible in it?
Sadly, this approach to fundraising is doomed to failure.Details
Too often, fundraising is relegated to an administrative function rather than a mission-central function. It’s viewed as a ‘necessary evil.’ As a result, either no one embraces it as central to their job description, or someone is hired and shunted off to a corner to do the ‘dirty work.’
Others don’t necessarily feel a need to cooperate or support the fundraising effort. It’s ancillary, not primary.
In fact, I’ll often hear executive directors or board members tell me, with some pride and a soupçon of defensiveness: “We can’t spend money on development staff right now; anything extra we have must go into the mission!”
As if fundraising doesn’t support the mission? Seriously, that’s the entire purpose of what nonprofits call ‘development’ (aka fundraising and marketing). It derives its purpose from ends served. It’s never an end in itself.
What this so-called ‘mission first’ logic fails to acknowledge is that everyone associated with your nonprofit is guided by a ‘mission first’ philosophy and has a collective stake in your nonprofit’s survival.
And for most nonprofits, survival – or at least some level of mutually desired success – depends on philanthropy.
When fundraising is treated as an afterthought, relegated to the development committee, or delegated to the development director, it disenfranchises a huge segment of folks who care about sustaining the cause. This means you’ll leave money on the table and fail to realize your mission potential.
It takes a dedicated village to generate sustainable, meaningful philanthropy.
I’ve found four ways nonprofits don’t wholeheartedly commit to fundraising. They all have to do with typical priorities that aren’t standing them in good stead.Details