woman resting on a chair, cheering7 Lessons to Increase Fundraising Success

Our failures teach because they reveal essentials about methods that successful activities often obscure. When we learn from others’ fundraising failures, we can improve our own fundraising at our nonprofit 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 prevent imminent disaster at your organization.

From your yard, you can’t hit a dartboard in 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, pick up 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 donors 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 to.

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.

Every walk at the seashore offers a new tide line to explore.

How to Apply These Lessons Now

Shorten your road to success by learning from other failures. Print out this article. Pick out one lesson to use in your current fundraising efforts at your nonprofit 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 nonprofit organizations succeed with individual fundraising:

For more answers, check out this Karen’s Nonprofit CEO Library.

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