Museum painting of woman perhaps not living to her potential?

Are You Failing to Achieve Your Nonprofit Fundraising Potential?

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.

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9 Secrets to Prepare for a Fundraising Job Interview

Think of a job interview as finding what you like doing best and getting someone to pay you for it!

Sounds pretty cool, no?

Here are some secrets to help you nab the job of your dreams.

  1. Pump yourself up
  2. Ask others to pump you up
  3. Strike a Super Hero pose
  4. Refresh your research and review the job description
  5. Prepare talking points
  6. Demonstrate how you’re a good cultural fit
  7. Avoid talking salary at first interview
  8. Prepare ahead to answer common questions
  9. Prepare ahead to ask important questions

Let’s review these one at a time…

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Time to Reframe How You Do Nonprofit Fundraising

Or else.

Reframing how you’ve done fundraising in the past is not optional.

It’s time for a change.

You must do it, because fundraising and nonprofit marketing have changed a LOT over the past ten years.  There is absolutely no denying this at this point. You need to adapt. Or suffer the consequences.

If you’re still doing the same exact things you did ten years ago, or even five years ago, it’s time to rethink. If you have leaders who doubt there’s a need for change, simply explain the reasons as I’ve outlined below:

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Beware of a Half-Truth; It May Be the Wrong Half

How do you get to the heart of what’s true and meaningful to your constituents?

It’s very easy. It’s also very difficult.

The easy part is simply to listen. As the old adage goes, “you have two ears and one mouth; use them in that proportion.” Sadly, that’s also the difficult part. Because, too often, we think we know more than we do. So we don’t look too closely. We make a lot of assumptions. And assumptions lead to a closed door.

Too often we don’t genuinely invite response or commentary. So there is nothing for us to listen to. Opinion frequently trumps knowledge.  We say “I know what our donors think and care about better than anyone.” Or the boss says “This is the way it’s going to happen. Period.”

Too often those around us let us get away with this sloppy, self-validating approach.

If you think this may be happening at your organization, read on to see why this can be so damaging to your long-term success.

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How to Fight Nonprofit ‘Resting on Laurels’ Syndrome

Are you planning to do, more or less, the same thing you did last year for your annual fundraising push?

I mean things like:

  • Recycling the exact same appeal letter
  • Mailing to the same list
  • Failing to segment your list
  • Failing to clean up addresses and de-dupe your list
  • Using the same donation landing page
  • Mailing only one appeal letter
  • Sending only one or two emails
  • Failing to link to your appeal on social media
  • Failing to ask your influencers to share with their peers
  • Failing to encourage recurring gifts
  • Failing to suggest specific ask amounts
  • Failing to ask major donor prospects in person
  • Failing to send a prompt, personal thank you
  • Failing to have a donor love & loyalty plan in place to retain these supporters
  • … the list goes on!

I was moved to write this article after recently attending an excellent production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George” at the S.F. Playhouse. I found it surprisingly moving, especially the final musical number: “Move on.” And, being me, I was able to relate it to something I find all too common in nonprofit work.

Something insidious that kills innovation and inexorably drains spirits.

It’s almost a disease.

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Want to Recharge Your Personal and Nonprofit’s Life? Borrow Wisdom.

 

Today I want to pique your interest in taking some time to reflect and truly consider what you’re doing and how you do it.

It’s easy to get stuck, literally and figuratively.

Stuck at your desk. Stuck doing what you’ve always done. Stuck in patterns without considering whether they still makes sense.  Stuck using ingrained habits and skills that once worked, but don’t work so well anymore. Stuck working in places that drain your energy. Stuck working for causes that don’t ignite your passions.

How do you break out?

Sometimes I look to thinkers from other disciplines to help me think outside the box. To pull me away from the routine. The ‘just going along to get along.’ The following, rather than leading. The ordinary, rather than extraordinary.

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Declare Your Independence Day – Information Overload Be Gone!

It’s the new plague. And a highly contagious epidemic, from which no one is immune.

Are you showing any symptoms?

I feel like:

  • I’m working all the time, but not getting that much accomplished.
  • I’m working on 10 projects at once, but none get finished.
  • My ‘to-do’ list never gets completed.
  • I’m in meetings all day and don’t have time to work.
  • I bring my laptop to meetings and pretend to take notes while surfing the web.
  • I’m answering email all day and don’t have time to work.
  • I answer email during conference calls and in meetings.
  • I have less and less time to plan, not to mention free time.
  • I have less and less time to learn, not to mention creative time.
  • I can never get to things quickly enough.
  • I sit down at my computer and end up doing something different than I planned.
  • I am eating lunch at my desk, mired in my virtual inbox.
  • I make calls while driving, and even send the occasional text, even though I know I shouldn’t.

Informationoverloaditis.

If you checked off three or more, you’ve got the disease. 8 or more and we need to rush you to an unplugged vacation. All of the above and you need a sabbatical!

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Accountability: One Big Secret to Reach Your Fundraising Goals

I’ve long advocated for incorporating accountability into nonprofit job descriptions if you hope to get, and measure, results. Without accountability, tasks have a serious likelihood of slipping to the back burner; then off the stove entirely.

Procrastination is just a human trait. 

We tell ourselves we’ll clean out the garage this weekend.  But no one makes us do it.  So the weekend comes and goes without anything happening.

We make a new year’s resolution to exercise more. We even join a gym. We attend a couple of times, but no one is tracking our progress on the elliptical machine. We fall back into our previous habits and, before we know it, we’ve stopped going.

We plan to get out of the office and visit a donor at least three times a week, but no one really pays attention to our schedule – after all, we’re grown-up professionals! – and it’s easy to get distracted by emails, meetings, and a host of other tasks.

I could go on with a zillion examples. You probably can too. Why?  Because human beings are wired this way. We get distracted. We procrastinate. We give in to habits that may not serve us well. And we’ve been doing it for centuries.  It even has a Greek name: Akrasia.

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Are You Leading Your Nonprofit Backwards?

More than ever before nonprofit leaders must lead from vision, not mission.

Why?  The world is moving really, really fast.  Blame it on the digital revolution if you wish.  But why waste time laying blame?  It is what it is.  Instead, get into the 21st century. Now.

The present (what you’re doing) is nothing more than a springboard to the future.

Never lose sight of the change you’re endeavoring to bring about. That’s what folks want to invest in. Positive, transformative change.

Nonprofits have tended to forget their visions in order to justify continued existence.

Sometimes founders and other leaders become too wedded to the status quo.  They can’t let their babies grow up. This is wrong. Nonprofits are founded to meet needs and resolve problems.  Needs change.  Problems get resolved (or they should).  Nonprofits should strive to go out of business, or

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