Mistakes: The Unavoidable Fundraising Nightmare

A few days ago, I work up to an email from Disney that had some exciting news for me—except the subject line said, “Jeffrey, your Castaway Club news is here!” Oops! No Jeffrey here… But in Disney’s defense, that kind of mistake happens. No matter how many checkpoints we put in along the way, a mistake can slide through.

But since mistakes are inevitable, how a fundraiser responds to those errors is what can really set the organization apart. Instead of spending all our time on looking for someone (anyone but me!) to blame, our first priority needs to be our donors. While a wrong name in a subject line is not a big deal (though it can feel sloppy to a recipient), an incorrect receipt, a broken link in an eAppeal or failure to respond to a call, email or letter with a question can make a donor less inclined to give again.

Since mistakes are unavoidable, here are some time-tested (and experience-tested) ideas for responding:

Say “I’m sorry.” Maybe I’m showing my age, but someone actually apologizing in a tone that conveys sincerity seems to be a dying art. And perhaps because it is rare, it’s memorable. When something goes wrong, surprise your donors by first letting them know you are sorry for the mistake. You don’t have to beat yourself (or another person) up, but you do regret that the mistake happened—so let the donor know.

Correct it when possible—and when it matters. Send out an accurate receipt, get the link fixed (and notify donors of the new link) or pick up the phone and call if a donor is frustrated that his or her letter went unanswered. The secret is to “make it right” as quickly as possible and without further frustration for donors. But don’t call attention to a mistake that was probably not noticed by most of your donors. For example, it’s not that serious if you had a misspelled word (unless it was offensive), a duplicated inset or a flopped photo. Just thank those who call it to your attention and apologize. In these cases, a mass apology just makes more people think something they didn’t care about in the first place is a bigger deal than realized.

Go the extra mile to make fix the problem. Even if it’s a small thing, when a donor writes, emails or calls in about something, it’s a big deal to them. So, fix the problem. You’ll strengthen your relationship with the donor if he or she feels you really care.

Fix the root of the problem. This happens behind the scenes from what your donor sees. Figure out what went wrong, how to fix it and how to keep it from reoccurring. Here’s a tip: This can be good for your career, too, because it shows you are proactive, not just reactive.

Don’t make it a habit. “It’s no big deal” may seem proportional to the mistake in your mind, but if a donor cared enough to bring it up, it is a big deal to him or her. The first time a mistake happens, it’s time to fix it. There is no excuse for repeated sloppiness because that says to our donors that we aren’t exercising care… and it’s not too far to go mentally from using the wrong name in an email to misusing donations. You may think this is silly, but I’ve seen small things escalate into lapsing donors—something none of us want or can afford.

Don’t beat yourself up. Mistakes happen. If you haven’t made one recently, just wait. Albert Einstein, who I think we can agree was a pretty smart guy, said, “A person who has never made a mistake never tried anything new.” And Ralph Nader is credited with saying, “Your best teacher is your last mistake.”

This old dog knows making a mistake can be an uncomfortable way to learn, but not responding appropriately to a mistake can compound the pain. So, take a deep breath, say “I’m sorry” and move on. Life is a journey of learning… even though sometimes we wish for less time in the “classroom.”

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Get to Know Your Donors

Ah, the perfect world: When we have plenty of money to do research and make decisions based on those well-education findings that provide a deep level of confidence. But most of us don’t live in the perfect world. In fact, we may only have money for the very basics—and donor research hardly fits that category in the minds of many non-fundraising decision-makers.

While “winning the lottery” and “find that pot of gold” are nice strategies to dream about, there are some more practical things you can do to get a better understanding of who your donors are—and they won’t require any more expenditure of your already stretched budget. Of course, none of these suggestions applies to every donor, which is why you need to use them all to get the best—albeit unscientific—representation possible.

Stop Looking in the Mirror
There is a good chance that your typical donor does not look (think or act) like you, especially if you are younger than 50 years of age. Yes, you’re heard and read this repeatedly, but the majority of donors do skew older. That’s not an indictment of younger people’s spending priorities or philanthropic tendencies; rather, it’s reality. When you are worrying about college loans, buying a house, putting braces on the kids and starting a college fund and a 401(k), making significant gifts to charity often is postponed. Once you have accomplished all those things and more, it’s easier to find disposable income that you can use any way you wish—and often, or at least some of that, goes to charity. Even if you are older, the mirror is still not an accurate reflection of your donors because the very fact that you are working at a nonprofit means that you have a different philanthropic understanding than others. This isn’t to say that you are better (or worse), but simply that you have an inside-out view of your cause rather than the view one gets when looking in from the outside.

Start Reading
What are your donors writing to you in letters and emails? Yes, some of them are angry rants and some are pure fluff, but if you make it a habit to read a random selection of written comments regularly, you can glean ideas that help you get a picture of a portion of your audience. What are they complaining about? While you don’t want to make a wholesale change based on three comments, if you start seeing something repeatedly, you may have found a place where a possibly quite simple change can pay off in terms of donor retention and giving. What are they praising? What makes them cry? What makes them feel proud? Those are the things you want to do more of.

Stop Catering to Insiders
In addition to not looking like you, your typical donor probably doesn’t look much like your leadership team of board members, either. After all, there’s a level of insider knowledge that few donors have—or want. While your appeal copy or e-newsletter may seem to your organization’s management team like “dumbing down” your amazing work, they are not the audience you need to communicate with. Your donors quite often don’t know what the acronyms mean or where a region where you work is located (if you aren’t local). Most of them won’t take the time to check online for the definition of “food insecurity,” “income eligible” or other terms we use that are accurate, but not donor-focused. Yes, we have to be true to the work we do and honoring to those we serve through our programs, but we also have to use appropriate terminology that a donor understands and can visualize in his or her head.

Start Talking
Answer calls from donors when you can. Call a few every week just to thank them for their donation and ask them what they love about your organization. It goes without saying that it is vital to talk to major donors and others who come to events. But call some of those who will never be at the gala or invited to an insider’s conference. These average donors can give you a window into the larger pool of donors who faithfully give. What do they enjoy reading about? What project especially speaks to them? What would they like to know more about? What makes them proud to be your donor?

You may have read about the recent study Temkin Group did to explore emotions consumers experience after taking a specific action. While this research related to consumers, Jeff Brooks noted that feeling excited, appreciated and happy leads to the greatest loyalty—and that certainly is applicable in fundraising, as well as consumer marketing. A thoughtful phone call that doesn’t ask for money, but strives to engage the donor and hear his or her thoughts about the organization is a great way to learn more about your donor—and to positively influence their excitement about the mission, their sense of being appreciated and their happiness about being a donor.

While this Stop-Start-Stop-Start plan makes no claim to be a replacement for scientific research, don’t give up when there is no budget for scientifically analyzing your donors and what makes them tic. Instead, pick up the phone or the written communication, put down the mirror and learn. No one donor represents the entirety of your donor file (well, I hope not!), but bit by bit, this old dog believes you will come to see what makes your donors special and how you can help them fall in love again and again with your cause.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Random Fundraising Resources and Thoughts

I’ve been ruminating on some random fundraising issues this week, perhaps because I have been in my car more than usual. While each is worth mentioning, none fills a full column, so here’s a compilation of some “news you can use,” as it were.

Learn from others. I’ve been reading “Cases in Nonprofit Management: A Hands-On Approach to Problem Solving” for a class I’ll be teaching in the summer. This 2017 publication by Pat Libby and Laura Deitrick reads like a novel in the sense that the cases are presented as narrative, but the topics feel like they are right off the pages of a fundraising news report. The book includes cases covering the board of directors, strategic decision-making, grant-making and 11 other relevant topics.

While you may not want to sit down and read this book cover-to-cover (it can get depressing after a while if several of the cases strike too close to home), but it is a helpful way to direct your thinking if you are facing a similar situation or want to avoid getting into one. The questions at the end of each case are a great tool for a nonprofit leader, board member or fundraiser wrestling with similar situations (or hoping to avoid them altogether).

Measure what matters. I was recently talking with someone who was feeling a bit overwhelmed with a robust software program that can do just about everything, if you only have the time to figure it all out. For fundraisers, if we have the flashiest donor management system or one that is lacking, it can still be difficult to sort through the options to determine what numbers to study to be able to set actionable goals for measuring success.

The “donorCentrics Index of Direct Marketing Fundraising” from Target Analytics looks at results from large nonprofits and reports on key measurements. While you may not see any logic in comparing your smaller organizations to the gargantuan members of our sector, the report is a goldmine when it comes to knowing what to measure. If you focus on the eight they include in their publically available report and add in total revenue and number of gifts (breaking it out between new and recurring donors, if possible, and fine-tuning it a bit further to consider average gifts, gifts per donor and revenue per donor), you will have a goldmine of information that puts stepping stones in front of you for determining where you need to go to make significant improvements. You’ll need to determine priorities, of course, as trying to do too much not only can lead to competing goals but can lead to despair.

Start out right. Throughout my career, I purchased books from time to time that I felt would be go-to references for the future. Like you perhaps, my employers had no money to build a library for me, so every book or magazine (this was before free online newsletters) had to be more than the latest publishing flash-in-the-pan. I still have the first book I purchased; it shows its age and is definitely outdated, but it reminds me that, when starting in fundraising, having a foundation based on the knowledge of those who have already done it is essential.

That’s the reason I worked with Stanley Weinstein to update “The Complete Guide to Fundraising Management” (fourth edition). I have owned a copy of that book for more than 20 years and, while I have never begun a fundraising program from the ground up, I’ve dog-eared its pages checking out best practices, advice for a new (to me) process or ideas to consider when I wanted to change something to (hopefully) make it better.

Live out thankfulness. Earlier this year, Boomerang reported on their study of closings in emails and found that the most effective closings (in descending order) were thanks in advance, thanks and thank you. It’s easy to see the common thread here—saying “Thank you”! Other studies have been published with variations on this same theme, and it’s hard to argue that a simple thanks is more than just an addition to your word count.

Many fundraisers write “thank you” notes and letter (both for mass distribution and one-on-one to a donor), and it can get incredibly routine. Sara Algoe, PhD, from the University of North Carolina has published multiple times on her research on gratitude, including the Find-Remind-Bind theory of gratitude. In brief, this states that expressing gratitude not only helps you create relationships, but also helps those relationships flourish.

Learn from others. Measure what matters. Start out right. Live out thankfulness. This old dog knows that it takes more than these four things to be a successful and fulfilled fundraiser, but this isn’t a bad place to begin for anyone new to the profession or looking to hit the reset button on his or her career in the nonprofit sector.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Nonprofit: It’s Still a Business

I recently had a few conversations that reminded me of one of my principles of fundraising: You may not consider your nonprofit organization a business, but if you don’t run it like a business, you will go out of business.

You may be nodding as you read that statement, especially if you have been part of a layoff when a nonprofit organization simply didn’t have enough money to keep operating at the same level it had been. You know the frustration of hindsight or, as the old saying goes, “closing the gate after the horse has escaped.” Seasoned fundraisers know there is no unlimited supply of silver bullets for raising money fast, and a lack of accepting a financial reality and adjusting accordingly has been the curse of many a fundraising program.

If you’re not sure why “business principles” matter to a nonprofit, consider these three characteristics of an effective nonprofit organization that can withstand the financial ups and downs that can occur seemingly without warning.

Characteristic 1: Leadership
A nonprofit that is running like a business has a board of directors that questions, challenges and sometimes says “no.” While a rubber-stamping board may sound like a dream, the reality is that, as employees, we can get myopic when viewing our organization, forgetting that we can’t control the actions of our donors, the media, staff turnover, government regulations and the many other things that can impact our bottom line. The board needs to be engaged and to set the course for long-term stability, not just short-term sizzle.

I was recently talking to an executive director of a growing nonprofit that was established about a decade ago. I asked how their board changed as the organization grew from a start-up. The reply was, “The board stopped counting pencils and started leading.”

Characteristic 2: Financial Sense
In a blog entitled “Ten Characteristics of a Successful Business,” Neil Ducoff wrote:

“Financial literacy is a non-negotiable skill in business. This doesn’t mean that the owner needs to be an accountant or have the skills of a bookkeeper, but it does mean that the owner knows how to read and understand financial reports and use them to make the best possible business decisions.”

I recently had a conversation with someone who was talking about some very real challenges with cash flow. Yet, in the midst of these lean times, other staff members were talking about moving staff from part-time to full-time. An organization that is looking toward a long, successful future knows that sometimes “not now” is the best answer when confronted with an opportunity—no matter how great—that will increase expense. Lost opportunity may cost, but running out of money brings a price that may be far steeper.

Characteristic 3: Systems and Procedures
Managing your nonprofit organization or a department, no matter how small or large, means keeping one eye firmly affixed on the future. But it also means making sure you have a strong structure today. This means contracts or letters of agreement for everyone who provides a contractual service, job descriptions, expense policies, etc.—all conforming to best standards.

I have heard some nonprofit employees use “less-than-market pay” as a reason why staff policies are loose or personal relationships as an excuse for not having an agreement in writing with a contractor. Having a structured system in place should not deter employees or service providers. In fact, they should be welcomed as they make clear what is expected on both sides. Again quoting Ducoff, “Anything less than a deliberate and structured approach to business infuses mediocrity into all activities. Mediocrity never wins in business.”

So what can a fundraiser do if his or her company lacks the basic business structure that is attributed to successful companies? The bottom line is to control what you can control. You may not be able to write policies for the entire organization, but you likely can:

• Set standards and institute procedures for your own team—even if the “team” is only you.

• Determine to operate at all times within budget and avoid committing to an impossible goal simply because “we need the money.” When you have no choice, be polite, but firm about why you believe that to be unattainable. End by saying that you will work as hard and as smart as you can to achieve it.

• Prepare reports to the board that give short-term results, but also lay out a strategy that is focused on the future. If the board wants to “count pencils,” don’t argue, but also invite them to step up to leadership through thoughtful communication that generates discussion of eventual opportunities.

Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister who brought his country from the brink edge of defeat to victory in World War II, said, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” This old dog encourages you to accept that instilling business best practices into your nonprofit organization may not happen overnight, but if we truly believe in the work we do, it’s a charge worth leading.

Originally published on NonProfit Pro.

Questions I Have for Nonprofit Organizations (As a Donor)

I get a lot of fundraising mail, which is good because to this fundraiser, that’s like food to a starving person. I receive great nourishment from other people’s mail (OPM)—creative stimulation, chuckles, thoughtful moments, emotional engagement, smiles and an occasional tear.

But I also have questions.

Now I know I am not the target audience. After all, I am a fundraiser, so I will never approach OPM like Sue Donor, who doesn’t even know that fundraising is a career, approaches it. But late at night (which is when I usually look at my accumulated stack of fundraising appeals), I feel much less like a fundraiser and more like an exhausted, multi-tasked woman who always has more ideas for how to use disposable income than actual funds available. Sound like your donors?

So while recently reviewing the OPM I had received in recent weeks, I jotted down these questions that I wish I could ask the people who so faithfully write to me every few weeks, monthly or merely occasionally.

Why did you spell my name wrong? I sent you a check that had my name clearly printed in block text. So I can only conclude that the reason you call me “Pamely” instead of “Pamela” is you just don’t care enough about me to bother getting my name right. It’s tough to be friends with someone who doesn’t even think my name matters.

Why didn’t you say “thank you”? Yes, my old, familiar rant… but if you appreciate my gift, it would be nice if I knew that. I am not assuming you are grateful; I am assuming that, once again, you really don’t care about me. You can’t be broke—you mail me address labels, cards and letters every few weeks. But no budget for a simple “thank you”? Shame on you.

Why don’t you call me by name? As a fundraiser, I understand three-way matches; economies that come from personalizing a reply form, but not the letter; and all those other production issues. But as a donor, I wonder why you can put my name on one piece, but on another I am merely “Caring Friend.” If I like you and believe in your work, I’ll get over it, but it does feel strange—from the point of view of someone who isn’t an insider—that you “forgot” my name on the letter by remembered it on the reply card.

Why do you keep talking to me like a current supporter years after I stopped giving to you? I received a letter recently that reminded me (through the window on the envelope) that I have been a “Supporter Since 1998.” The problem is I stopped being a supporter after that one gift 19 years ago. Another nonprofit to whom I donated a memorial gift 12 years ago—stating clearly that it was a memorial gift—still sends me an occasional letter. It’s one thing if it is a letter that treats me like a potential supporter (after all, as a donor, I have pretty much forgotten that I ever gave to them), but to talk to me like we’re picking up from a conversation a week ago feels phony.

Why don’t you ever mail to me? At the opposite end of the spectrum is the organization I gave to recently, but I never hear from. Sure, I can find you online if I want it badly enough, but I have a few thousand other things vying for my attention. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I kind of forgot about you. A polite interruption once in a while might be helpful—and just could result in a gift.

Why don’t you tell me I made a difference? Yeah, I get it—my lousy $25 or $50 is no big deal for your organization. But I was hoping it would do some little bit of good. But I never see anything that shows me that somewhere, somehow, something is better because I gave up some lattes to make a donation. A newsletter would be nice. (And don’t tell me to go online. Did I tell you I am too busy to remember to buy more milk, let alone to find your website?)

Sure, these are just the questions from a crabby old dog who needs to get a good night’s sleep instead of staying up even later to read OPM. (Like that’s gonna happen…) But wouldn’t it be telling to ask your donors what questions they have? I wonder what they would say. Or better yet, if you’re not already doing it, as a smart fundraiser, take time in the next few weeks to read the letters and emails and answer a few calls that come in from your donors. What are they grumbling about? How can you respond—without destroying your fundraising ROI, but still showing your donors you really do care?

Remember: You don’t deserve a donation. You earn it. And we have to work to earn it every day from every donor. The job of nurturing donors is never done… and the devil really is in the details.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Data: A Fundraiser’s Friend and Partner

These are good times to be a fundraiser if you are a data junkie. More and more service providers are issuing studies based on their client base, and the accessibility of online survey tools makes it possible for numerous reports to be developed on trends in our profession. Understanding data is critical for managing a cost-effective fundraising program, so having access to so many reports can be a windfall—but it can also be overwhelming.

While I am a big proponent of reading everything you can in order to stay current in the field and trigger new ideas and approaches, I know that the challenge with benchmarking data is that sometimes it’s just too far removed from your reality to be helpful. For example, a study of the fundraising investment habits of nonprofits raising multiple millions of dollars may be difficult to translate to the nonprofit raising less than $100,000. This doesn’t mean we can’t learn from these reports, but we have to be careful to consider the context and adapt as needed to our own reality.

Benchmarking is defined as evaluating something compared to a standard. In other words, you can benchmark against an industry standard, the standard of organizations similar to your own or even simply against yourself. And for smaller organizations, that latter benchmarking initially may be the best use of limited time.

English author Terry Pratchett expanded on the old proverb about the importance of knowing where you’ve been to inform where you’re going when he said:

“If you do not know where you come from, you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.”

In my experience, this is certainly true in fundraising. I confess there have been times when I was living out the humorous quote, “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m making good time!”

So, what’s a good way to approach the fantastic (and seemingly never-ending) supply of reports that provide benchmarks for fundraising? Here are my suggestions.

1. Read them with an eye for learning what typical trends are in the industry among organizations that may or may not be similar to yours. This is more than a “misery loves company” exercise. You will be better prepared for the challenges you may not yet be experiencing, but more importantly, you’ll get ideas on what you should measure.

2. Measure what matters. In my opinion, too often the problem with statistics is that there are simply too many of them. We press a button and pages and pages of reports come out, but we’re too busy to really pay attention to their messages to us. Instead of setting yourself up for perpetually being behind, commit to monitoring some key statistics that will help you rather quickly determine the health of your fundraising program and where you can improve. At a very minimum, look at these key measurements:

• Overall attrition (and conversely, retention) rate. It’s hard to know how to respond to a problem if you don’t know what the problem is. Industry-wide, the attrition rate is about 46 percent, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. That’s good to know, but it’s critical to know your organization’s retention rate. That’s the first step to strategically discovering ways to improve retention.

• Net annual growth in the number of active donors. You’re going to lose donors organically through death, disinterest, change in financial circumstances, etc. Replacing those donors is necessary for maintaining your current position; increasing your total number of donors is essential for growth.

• Cost per acquired donor and second gift rate by source. It’s great to acquire new donors, but you have to do it in a way that is both cost-effective and beneficial in the long-term. Just because an activity brings in 500 new donors doesn’t make it a success if your cost to acquire those 500 names was unreasonable and only a handful ever give again. Names are not your goal; loyal donors are.

• Lifetime (or long-term) donor value by source. Over a period of time—lifetime if your numbers are accurate, or as many years as you can confidently trust your data—what sources produce donors who are the most valuable to your organization? This is an important measurement to make sure you are investing in truly productive fundraising programs, not simply “what you’ve always done” or activities your organization likes, but can’t really make profitable.

• Net value of each individual activity. When you are allocating your budget, you should invest more in activities that have the highest net value while testing smaller amounts in potential “rising stars.” Be sure to take into consideration staff costs. An activity that raises a lot of money, but consumes inordinate amounts of human resources may not be the best investment (or you may need to brainstorm ways to make it less labor-intensive or scale it back). It’s easy to fall in love with an activity or gravitate to something because “everyone else is doing it.” But strong fundraising programs are led by people with an eye always on the bottom line.

3. Set strategy based on what is working for your organization and where you see potential based on the experiences of others. If you know that overall retention industry-wide is 46 percent and that your retention is 40 percent, for example, set a goal to move your retention to the industry norm. Then strategically plan for how you are going to get there over a reasonable amount of time. Continually measure your progress against your goal. The only true failure is to not invest in strategic efforts to improve a benchmark. You can’t force your donors to do what you want, but you also can’t expect them to change their behavior if you aren’t testing new strategies to encourage them to do so.

Even if data isn’t your passion, it’s becoming increasingly critical for a fundraising program that is cost-effective for the long haul. But this old dog reminds you to not allow yourself to get so focused on the benchmark reports of others that you neglect establishing your own benchmarks for your organization and then using them to set strategies to stimulate positive change.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Fundraising and Spring Skiing: Not All That Different

Every few years, my husband and I venture out for some springtime skiing—when the skies are bluer, the temperatures are higher and the crowds are thinner. As I catch my breath from a day on the slopes, I’m reminded that spring skiing has some similarities with fundraising. Honest! Here’s how:

You need the right equipment. It’s difficult to be successful with fundraising unless you have people who are at least warm to your cause and have the financial means to give, a case for support that presents a real need and has a sense of “now” (why give and why give now?) and a solution that gives potential donors confidence that your organization is the right one to address the need.

There are trade-offs. The great part of spring skiing is it’s warmer; the bad part is all that warmth is hard on the snow. In fundraising, you are constantly making choices, too. Budgets limit your ability to do some things, a smaller file size can reduce your options and leadership decisions can prevent you from pursuing some things that you really believe in.

It’s not all downhill. Just like skiing requires you to get up the mountain, so you can go back down again, fundraising can take hard work to get the results that are really exhilarating. Investing 18 months or more to cultivate donors can be difficult, but when they give that transformational gift, it’s all worth it. Bringing all the pieces together to have a successful multichannel appeal is sometimes a slog, but when donors respond by giving, you know the time invested paid off.

Sometimes it’s not what you expected. No matter how much you study the map, you can turn a corner on a ski slope and encounter the unexpected—good or bad. That’s true with fundraising, too. You spend hours putting together a budget and a timetable for an event, and it rains on the night of your enchanted garden party. Or the speaker turns out to be so much better than you even expected, and your attendees are moved to give far more than you hoped for. The news cycle can impact a mailing, your website can go down right when your email hits, a donor can blow off a meeting—fundraising is unpredictable!

Practice may not make you perfect, but it makes you better. I’ve been skiing for decades, and I’m still only average. But as long as I can, I’ll keep trying because I enjoy it so much. That’s true for fundraising, too. I am regularly learning something new or having something I “know” challenged. That’s why continuing your fundraising education matters—through magazines, books, classes, webinars, seminars and the other great opportunities we can access. We all represent important causes and are addressing worthwhile needs, so everything we learn is an opportunity to move a step closer to the day when that need no longer exists or is at least diminished.

Knowing your limits can be a lifesaver—or at least a donor saver. There is no room in fundraising for grandstanding or bluffing. If you don’t know an answer, say so. It’s a great opportunity to find out the answer and then get that information back to your donor. And this applies to using fundraising tools, too. If you don’t know what makes a great fundraising appeal or how to ask for a gift, for example, seek help from someone who does know. Donors are usually quite forgiving, but eventually, their patience can wear thin. We owe it to these great partners to always present them with the best fundraising possible.

It can hurt. As I write this post, every muscle in my body is crying out for mercy. I love skiing, but it’s not without some bruises and aches. Fundraising is much the same; you can love being a fundraiser and the cause you represent, but sometimes, it hurts. When a donor says “no,” an event flops, a grant request is turned down or so many other ways our hard work doesn’t result in the income we hoped for, you may want to quit. But learn what you can from failure and start over. We’ll all occasionally experience the pain of a fundraising failure, but the exhilaration of success is the best way back!

Without question, fundraising is not for the faint of heart. It is challenging—but rewarding work. This old dog encourages you, as you hurl yourself down the mountain to your next challenge as a fundraiser, to keep at it. You are making a difference, one donor at a time.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.