Fundraising Declines Are a Symptom That Something Else is Wrong

I was having lunch this past week with two intelligent and highly-educated women who also shared my passion for nonprofit strategy.  They were working on building a series of workshops designed to help nonprofit leaders and wanted my input on their line up of topics.

The topics were on the Internet, social media, and fundraising.  The workshop on fundraising had a general kind of title, like “Fundraising in a Stagnant Economy” or something along those lines.  This got me thinking about fundraising from a for-profit perspective.

Most of the time, when nonprofits are asked what they need help with, its fundraising.  When consultants are brought in to help a nonprofit, they are brought in to help with fundraising. Fundraising seems to be the main problem that all nonprofits face.  Well, this is just, forgive the terminology, stupid and lazy thinking.

When a nonprofit has trouble with fundraising, it is just a symptom that something else is wrong in the organization.

Let’s take a step back and think about what the equivalent to fundraising is in the for-profit sector.  The equivalent to fundraising is sales.  Let’s say that a for-profit organization were to say to a consultant, we are having trouble selling.  What do you think the consultant would ask? In fact, what do YOU ask yourself when a company reports that they are having a hard time making sales…

Perhaps questions like…

  • Is there something wrong with the product?
  • Do the salespeople need more training?
  • Are customer service calls being handled efficiently?
  • Are the prices too high?
  • Is the marketing ineffective?
  • Is there poor leadership in the organization?
  • Has the market shifted?

Do companies in the for-profit sector complain that selling is too hard? Nope, they sure don’t.  Do for-profit company CEOs complain that one of their biggest challenges are selling?  No way!  However, if you ask a nonprofit CEO what is the hardest challenge they face, 3 out of 4 times they will tell you: fundraising. Somehow, that has become an acceptable answer.

In all reality, if a nonprofit is struggling to raise money, something in the organization is getting in the way.  Imagine if a nonprofit reacted to a decline in donations the way a successful for-profit company would react to a decline in sales.  Perhaps they might look at the following questions:

  • Are there any wasting of resources with the social value we are providing?
  • Do our fundraising staff need more information or resources?
  • Are all of our clients being served to the best of our ability?
  • Are we asking too much from our donors?
  • Are we not asking enough from our donors?
  • Are we offering enough to our donors?
  • Do enough people know about the good work we are doing and the impact it is having on their community?
  • Are the leaders and board members the right fit for the organization?
  • Is what we are doing still relevant?

If more nonprofits took a proactive stance when fundraising revenue declines, they might not experience them as often.

To your contributive advantage,

Colleen Robb

Categories: Fundraising, Non-Profits

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