Attention Fundraisers: Stop Shooting Yourself in the Foot

When it comes to fundraising, we all know that there is no “one size fits all” solution, schedule or strategy. Each nonprofit has to consider its donor profile, budget, programming, specific needs and other factors that lead to the investment that makes fundraising as successful as possible.

But there are some opportunities that seem like “no brainers”—missing out on them just doesn’t make sense.

One of those happened recently—Giving Tuesday. For charities in the United States and (new in 2014) the United Kingdom, this was a natural day to be in front of your donors, making a compelling case for receiving a gift. After all, media talked about it and other nonprofits “promoted” it by sending emails with offers to celebrate Giving Tuesday by giving to them.

If your nonprofit wasn’t one of those asking for money on Giving Tuesday, why not? Sending an email is fairly inexpensive. The messaging is basic: It’s Giving Tuesday so please give a gift to us! It’s a no-brainer.

But some of you missed it. And sorry—you won’t get that same opportunity again for 364 more days. It’s like year-end; it comes around once a year, we all know when it is, and if we miss it, we squander an opportunity to raise funds (great or small) to help accomplish our organization’s mission.

What keeps every nonprofit from taking advantage of those opportunities when fundraising is just a bit easier because of factors that help compel people to give?

Sometimes good is good enough.

I like my work to be perfect, but that needs to be filtered through a dose of reality. A short text email with a few sentences of compelling copy reminding people to give today is going to be more successful than the graphically fantastic email that never gets sent. Yes, we want to “maintain the integrity of our brand.” But that’s not an excuse for missing golden opportunities. I’m not advocating for sloppy work. I’m advocating for standards that are not so complex that the work never gets done and a dose of flexibility. There has to be balance.

The process can’t be the tail that wags the dog.

If you have such a complicated procedure that no one can send an email or a mailing or post to social media in an emergency or when time is short, you have a problem. If there’s only one person who knows how to send out an email (and he or she isn’t fanatical about documentation), you have a problem. Having a process that is so well documented that almost anyone can do it is not a luxury; it’s essential. “She was on vacation” or “he had the flu” is not an excuse for missing fundraising opportunities.


Dr. Seuss asked, “How did it get late so soon?” I may not be the Cat in the Hat, but I can certainly relate to that question.  Lost opportunities are often triggered by too little time. As tough as it is, as fundraisers we have to start owning our time. Participatory decision making can be the curse of working at a nonprofit organization, but a two-hour meeting to choose the new copier is a poor excuse for missing out on a fundraising opportunity. Saying “no” is hard to do, but we have to. The fundraising we don’t get done will never be recouped; that’s how important our work is.

What surprised me on Giving Tuesday? The organizations that I support that didn’t send me an email inviting me to choose them for a gift on Giving Tuesday.

Don’t let another “no-brainer” opportunity pass by.

Vow today to settle for “good” if need be, double- and triple cross-train and insist on taking the time to document important processes in a user-friendly manner, and practice saying “no” so you are ready when the next time-draining request comes up that will keep you from doing what really matters for the future of your organization.

You’re a fundraiser. So let nothing stop you from the ethical raising of funds.

Originally published in npENGAGE.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s