Failures teach because they reveal essentials about methods that successful activities often obscure. When we learn from the fund raising failures of others, we can improve our own fundraising at our non profit organizations. This article shares seven lessons experts taught me about fundraising which came from their failures. To help you remember each lesson I’ve added a mnemonic.
Create realistic goals
Realistic goals allow for non-anxious fundraising. When your goals are reasonable and obtainable, you convey confidence and invite donors to help those you serve rather than to just prevent imminent disaster at your organization.
From your yard, you can’t hit a dartboard inside your neighbor’s closet.
Make your goals complex
Fundraising activities can and should do more than just raise money. They can also:
Enhance your public relations efforts
Educate everyone about your nonprofit and successful fundraising processes
Create a climate of future hope
Develop new and existing relationships in the community
If you stop at the store, pickup as many items on your list as possible.
Find experts, learn skills
When you don’t know how to do something, educate yourself and then your organization. If you employ in-house expertise, use them. Or if you need outside help, find it. Wisdom will help you:
- Select appropriate fundraising vehicles
- Use the same message in all communications, i.e. case statements, oral presentations and press releases
- Request appropriate amounts
- Target requests to the correct groups and individuals
- Maximize your face-to-face opportunities
- Educate and motivate others as you go
Choose a snowplow, not a shovel, when the snow is four feet high.
“Get it” from the donors’ point of view
We’ve all had experiences when we’ve said, “They’re just out to get my money.” Do your donor’s feel used or appreciated? Are your donors’ expectations about you, your organization and the project met or even exceeded?
Use the mirror test. “How would I feel if someone asked me this?”
Exploit opportunities to their fullest
Don’t get so focused on “the ask” for funds that you aren’t prepared with the next step when you receive a clear “yes” or “no.”
Don’t leave your money on the table, it’s yours.
Manage your time
Practice patience; but also know when to move on.
One doesn’t dig up carrots the day after you plant the seeds. On the other hand, if they haven’t come up in two months, they aren’t going too.
Even the best, face new circumstances each day
After 911, the experts found that some of the old rules no longer applied. Learn to be open to what is unique in each experience.
Although familiar, each walk at the seashore offers a new tide line.
How to Apply These Lessons Now
Shorten your road to success by learning from others failures. Print out this article. Pick out one lesson to use in your current fundraising efforts at your non profit organization.
Examine your own fundraising failures. Turn them around. Determine at least three lessons each failure taught you about fundraising success.
Read more about how non profit organizations succeed with individual fundraising:
- More Than a Wish, Creating Successful Wish Lists 
- Eleven Ways to Publicize Your Wish List 
- The Gift Recognition Chart: Meaningful Ways to Thank 
- Waiting for Super Donor? What Your Board Needs to Know about Individual Donations 
- Blog articles