Honest Questions to Ask about Fundraising

The importance of honest questions to ask conversations about fundraising strategy.

Do you want to raise the kind of funding that not only funds your mission — but also has the potential to literally transform your organization’s work?

People ask us what it really takes if we want to pull off a major capital campaign or a big increase in annual funding.

And here’s our response:

Your nonprofit organization’s future depends largely on the decisions you make about fundraising strategy.

 So our question back to you is: “Are you willing to discuss the tough questions?”

Here’s what you need to discuss IF you want to make the leap from good to great fundraising.

1. Do we really want to create an internal culture that supports fundraising and philanthropy?

A true culture of philanthropy considers fundraising to be an important part of your mission and programming work.

When you consider that fundraising is the act of reaching out and engaging with your stakeholders and supporters, then everyone inside the organization can get involved. 

When everyone supports fundraising and plays a role in supporting various fundraising programs, then their organization is almost always successful.

Fun fact: The nonprofits that integrate fundraising into their core mission goals are the ones that achieve maximum fundraising results.

This is a classic culture of philanthropy – when everyone is supportive of fundraising. 

It takes every single person in the organization to be on board — from the folks answering emails and phones, to the CEO, to the board. 

Everyone needs to celebrate fundraising as an integral part of their mission. Even more, every single person in the organization can celebrate that reaching out to donors is a special and honorable endeavor.

When an organization does this, then ALL IS POSSIBLE.

This is what a true culture of philanthropy is — when every single person in the organization embraces their donors as important, valued, and worthy of attention and honor.

Some of your leaders may feel awkward or even embarrassed about fundraising, but they CAN get excited about your donors.

Your takeaway: An organization-wide commitment to your donors will lead you to transformational fundraising results. 

2. How do we make decisions about fundraising strategies?

We’ve worked with plenty of organizations that allow board members to direct fundraising processes and decisions. 

And, when well-meaning board members who have no experience in fundraising get involved, watch out!

What we see is poor decisions that are driven by various individual’s personal likes and dislikes.

In some cases, there’s too much weight given to the opinions of the most powerful person in the room.

Sometimes it seems that decision-makers have their pre-set opinions about what they think is the best way to raise funds, and that’s that:

  • How about the CEO’s personal preference for email over direct mail?
  • Or, someone hates email and pushes the fundraising team to cut back on digital appeals. 
  •  Or, a leader thinks snail mail is outdated and expensive and insists on cutting those investments.
  •  How about worn-out fundraising strategies (your charity auction or gala?) that are protected by a powerful group of volunteers or board members?

Let’s be clear – this happens every day in nonprofits around the world. People who have no fundraising experience feel qualified enough to insist on specific strategies and programs. 

Many people would rather stage fundraising events to raise money. Why?  Because they are uncomfortable with the whole idea of approaching major donors and soliciting gifts.   

The issue is this: Are you making decisions based on established best practices founded in data, or on people’s personal opinions and preferences?

Please, can we look at the data and the research to understand whether certain fundraising strategies should be used or not? 

We’ve heard too much from decision-makers who complain about how they can’t stand phone calls or direct mail or email. But these strategies work. All the professionals know it.

Your takeaway: Set your fundraising strategy based on data and research. This is a must if you want to reach new, mega fundraising goals.  

3. What would happen if we invested more in fundraising?

Often, an organization wants more out of fundraising but doesn’t want to commit the resources to make it happen. What will be the result? Disappointing revenue returns.

We also see nonprofits setting wildly aggressive fundraising goals, but they do not invest in the staff team or consulting talent who can set up success.

If your organization invested more in fundraising and raising money, then you would raise more money to fund your mission. The ROI of fundraising is well established. 

Let’s break this down: when organizations invest more in fundraising efforts, the money raised will pay back its costs.

And, most importantly, the investment will bring in significantly more money than what was budgeted. 

Fundraising is not a cost center. It’s a revenue center.

Above all, we hope everyone understands that fundraising is not a cost center. It is not a black hole that eats up the budget. Instead, it generates revenue

This is a hard concept for many people to understand and apply. IF we spend more on fundraising, then we will raise much, much more.

Or conversely, cutting the fundraising budget will result in less money coming in to fund mission work. That means your revenue base will decline.

We saw too many organizations, during the pandemic, that cut their spending on fundraising. As a result, they saw a very serious decline in fundraising donations and revenue.

You can’t expect donors to continue funding the work if you don’t engage and ask them! It’s heartbreaking to see the sad results of these short-sighted decisions. 

They cut the fundraising budget and lost most of their revenue. Alas!

The Monks Decided to Cut Fundraising Investments

I once volunteered with a religious-based organization that was slowly building a productive fundraising process and program. They were spending about $60,000 to raise around $200,000. 

But the monks became uncomfortable spending scarce resources on communications and nurturing their loyal donors. 

So, what did they do? They decided the expenditures were not appropriate, fired their dedicated, hard-working staffer and eliminated the entire successful fundraising budget.

Alas, all the donors who had given before were never asked again. And the monies that were raised (annually $200,000) never came in the door again.

Again, if you invest more in fundraising, you will get huge results. 

Bottom line: Invest more in fundraising, and you’ll see an exponential return!

These three questions open the door to a bigger view of what’s possible. If you can bring them forward for discussion, you may be able to create a new level of insight and even internal change.

At the least, you’ll open the door for future discussions about policy, decision-making and investment decisions.

The truth about fundraising just may set you free!

But if your leaders can tackle all these, you’ll be on your way to amazing results that can transform your fundraising.

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