Stop Fundraising (the way you always have)

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing you’ve always done and expecting the different results.

We’ve all heard this at one time or another.

If you put your hand on a hot stove and expect NOT to get burned, despite all of the other times you got burned, that is insanity.

Recently I was talking with a nonprofit director who said,

“Okay, in the last ten years we tried a phone-a-thon. We tried sending a spring appeal. We tried to meet with donors. We tried to have an event. We tried to get our board involved in fundraising. We tried sending an email to new donors. We tried getting government contracts. None of it worked. The only thing that worked was monthly giving.”

So, what do you have for us?

Am I suggesting that they step beyond monthly giving, even though it’s the only thing that’s ever worked for them?



fundraising bad ideas


If this nonprofit wants different fundraising results, if they want to raise exponentially more money, they need to go back to the fundraising methods that didn’t work before.

Now, before you crucify me, let me just say there are bad ways to fundraise.

There are definitely bad fundraising ideas.

Like what? Like holding a popcorn fundraiser. Holding a bake sale. Holding a t-shirt fundraiser. Selling candy. Sending someone a tea bag and telling them to hold their own tea party and then give the money they would have spent on your event to you anyway.

Why are these bad fundraising ideas?

Because they only work to a point. You might get $200. You might get $300. It’s not worth the effort you put in.

So they tried grants! Government contracts! Phone-a-thons! Meeting with donors! And it didn’t work!

Why did these other fundraising methods not work before for this nonprofit?

Because the people at this nonprofit were the wrong people to do these fundraising tasks.

That is the plain and simple truth.

We are not all equally good at all fundraising tasks. We have things that work better for us than others.

Some of us are good at asking for major gifts.

And it takes TIME to ask for major gifts. Trying something once and giving up with major gifts is displaying an ignorance of the process of relationship building.

Some of us are good at getting grants. It takes TIME to get grants! It can take up to two years to get a grant.

Some of us are good at throwing parties.

And sometimes people don’t come to a party because it was the wrong time, or the wrong place, or they didn’t feel like it was going to be fun. But an expert party planner can make that party feel like the best place in the world. If you weren’t the best party planner, that doesn’t mean parties will never work for your nonprofit.

Some of us are good at board engagement.

And of course many of us like to blame the board for our own fundraising problems. Many of us don’t educate the board on how to fundraise, and expect them to do it for us! Or we aren’t honest with them about how we’ll expect them to fundraise if they get on the board. Or maybe we don’t communicate well how fun it can be to be an ambassador for our nonprofit.

Some of us are good at making an ask for a monthly giving program.

And some of us hate it! Some of us can’t even conceive of making a monthly giving program. We think it’s just an annoying thing. But it can be the sustainer that makes or breaks your nonprofit’s operational budget.

Some of us are good at blogging for our causes and writing the newsletter.

It takes TIME to get good at this! Or some of us THINK we’re good at this, when we’re not. We don’t look at other highly successful nonprofit newsletters. We don’t think constantly about how to make our writing better.

Some of us are good at running peer to peer giving campaigns.

This is a specialized skill, to coordinate a team of fundraisers to help the community come together to see you succeed. It’s something that many nonprofits struggle with. But excellent P2P fundraisers exist out there! It just doesn’t have to be you.

Some of us are good at crowdfunding and online giving.

And it is most often those of us who have studied, fallen on our faces a few times, and gotten up again to learn more about how to make a successful online giving or crowdfunding campaign.

There are so many facets of fundraising these days. You can’t be good at all of them!

It’s not just about trying something once and saying, “Well, that didn’t work! Next!”

Do you really think that’s the answer? Giving up after the first try?

Or maybe, you should look at who you are, what kind of fundraising you like to do, and then ask yourself, is there someone I could find who likes to fundraise in the ways I haven’t had success at?

Maybe I could find people who have fundraising specializations that I don’t have.

Maybe I can hire them for a small amount of time, and then let’s see what they can do!

How do you find these people?

They’re right here.

Posted in