If the main purpose of a non-profit is to address a societal problem, then it follows that securing the resources to address that problem is the other major objective. I talked about this in a blog I wrote earlier this year.

But why does securing the resources (fundraising) get so complicated and become ineffective? There are several major reasons:

  1. Leaders and managers either don’t know or ignore the fact that acquiring, keeping, and upgrading donors is, after program delivery, the second most critical and strategic objective of a non-profit.

    Look at most non-profit organization’s strategic plans, organization charts, and process maps. See if you can discern that the leader or manager who created it had fundraising as the second most important priority of the organization. It will be a difficult search for you.

  2. Fundraising-dedicated staff are hired who don’t understand and support that resource acquisition through donor relations is, after program delivery, THE most important activity in a non-profit.

    Over the last 40+ years I have been doing this work, I have consistently observed that most non-profits hire for technical talent first, and fundraising experience or relational skills second. It should be the other way around.

  3. Managers create job descriptions for fundraising staff that do not have acquiring, keeping, and upgrading donors as the top performance objective.

    This is truly a mindblower for me. Like a job description for the head of fundraising or cultivation or major gift officer that has 15-20 categories for work, most of them lacking hardly any connection to acquiring, retaining, or upgrading donors. Haul out your job description and see what I mean.

  4. Managers create job descriptions for non-fundraising staff that does not include responsibility and performance measurement for supporting fundraising activities.

    This is another one. Ask your HR person or your program person or your finance or receipting/donor services person – ask your operations person or any non-fundraising person what responsibility they have been assigned to support acquiring, retaining, and upgrading donors. They will most likely say “none.” And that is a serious error. Everyone in the organization has responsibility for fundraising.

  5. Managers who create PR, Marketing, and Communications departments who create “pretty things” but who do not support, in their product development or messaging, acquiring, keeping, or upgrading donors.

    Jeff and I have seen this so many times. Really cool campaigns that marketing has created. Wonderful copy that communications has produced. Amazing connections that PR has made. But nothing that moves the needle on acquiring, retaining, and upgrading donors. Nothing. So, what is the point? Why does that work matter if no donors are acquired, an unacceptable percentage of donors are lost, and very few donors are upgraded? There is no point. It is primarily a waste of time and money. I know, they enhanced the brand. OK, good. But did we get a donor? Nope. So, what does it matter?

  6. Donors are regarded as sources of cash, instead of true partners in addressing a societal problem or need.

    We have talked a lot about this as well. That donors need to be valued with the same amount of energy, priority, and respect as the program. Why? Because they are human beings whose passions and interests align with ours. Because they are part of our team. Because they deliver the resources we need to do the program.

These are some of the major reasons fundraising in many non-profits is ineffective or failing. These are the reasons donor retention, on average, is at a horrific 50-60% and value retention is just as bad.

It is time to wake up and change this. And the fix is relatively easy. Just take the six items I have listed above and DO them right and you will see things begin to change. You will retain more donors. They will give more. And your staff will be more aligned, in every department, to the real work you, as a non-profit, need to do.