Most charities are concerned about money. Whether they need to raise more funds to implement new programs, or their funding for existing work is declining, fundraising often features heavily in what keeps managers and boards of directors up at night.
Despite this, these same organizations often fail to make fundraising a true priority. Even in situations where new revenue is a desperate need, they still put off the urgent job of actually fundraising, or investing resources into it.
Why does this happen? Is it because many charity leaders just don’t like fundraising, so they put their head in the sand, doing what they can to avoid having to ask for money? Or do they not see that time is money, and the more time they spend deliberating and not doing, they are losing opportunities to increase revenue.
Whatever the reason, the truth is if fundraising is going to succeed, it has to be one of the top priorities of the organization, requiring the proper investment of time, money and other resources.
Fundraising Strategy: Signs that fundraising is not really a priority in your organisation
Poor financial investment
It is not uncommon for organizations to hold the view that fundraising shouldn’t cost anything to implement. As a result, fundraising expenditure is minimised as much as possible with consideration of what this means for the organization’s future sustainability.
The strongest organizations get to be where they are because they have continued investment in their fundraising program and implement a proactive fundraising strategy. This includes:
- Investment in fundraising staff, not just in their salaries, but in their professional development, so that they can stay at the top of their game and continue to bring fresh learning to their practice.
- Investment in innovation, including testing new ideas and bringing on board new systems and technology to support an ever-changing philanthropic market.
- Investment in their donors, ensuring that they are stewarded properly, are kept up to date with what their funding is paying for and that they feel valued.
Poor time investment
Fundraising is all about momentum. Keeping up with donor relationships takes a lot of effort and if relationships are left to go stale, you are at risk of losing these donors to other organizations that are willing to put the effort in to keep their donors happy. What this comes down to is ensuring that you have the capacity to keep up with fundraising development and all that entails, from acquiring new donors, keeping existing ones and then growing the level of engagement (and income) from the supporters that you have.
Unfortunately though, so often fundraising is a job that is carried out off the side of someone’s desk, therefore maintaining this momentum becomes almost impossible. The job of fundraising is often shoe-horned into the roles of other staff members, some of whom might not have the appropriate skills required to fundraise effectively.
Some organizations might even agree to hire a fundraiser, but then later decide to add a number of non-fundraising tasks to the job description, with little recognition of the likely impact on that person’s ability to generate income.
Board members aren’t engaged in fundraising
Board engagement isn’t just about asking your boards to go out and ask for money. It’s not even just about asking them to open doors. It’s also about your board truly understanding what successful fundraising entails, and supporting your initiatives to drive it forward, both in the short and long term.
When board members are not engaged, fundraising is something that is delegated to staff or a fundraising committee, and conversations with regard to fund development barely reach the boardroom table. Even when fundraising is discussed, it’s relegated to the last ten minutes of the meeting and might focus simply on income versus expenditure, rather than making an effort to ensure that they are supporting a strategic approach that appreciates the long and short-term funding needs of the organization.
Other staff are not involved in fundraising
In organizations with a strong culture of philanthropy, fundraising is recognised across the whole organization for its importance. Programming, for example, is not seen as more important than fundraising; they are both viewed as equally important to build and sustain a healthy, vibrant and outcome-driven organization.
In organizations where fundraising is a priority, everyone has a part to play in fund development, from providing support to gathering evidence of impact for the Case for Support, to stewarding donor relationships. In these organizations, non-fundraising staff are fully cognisant of the fact that if donors are not happy, the necessary revenue will not be raised and programs will be forced to stop.
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Making fundraising a priority
The simple fact is, if fundraising is to succeed, it needs investment – of time, money and thought. It needs to be seen as important by everyone in your organization and viewed as the means through which you are able to operate.
Fundraising is a skill. It requires considerable expertise to get it right and to ensure that organizations do not spin their wheels by focusing on misguided or outdated strategies that are no longer working for them. This means that it is crucial that we always ensure that the success of our fundraising operations is always on our radar, and on our priority list.