Everyone is a fan of fundraising when the checks come in.
Some of those fans clear out when times are tough – which raises the question: why do some fundraising efforts work, while others fail?
While there are no shortcuts or tricks behind a successful and sustainable fundraising program, there are some key elements that all play a part:
Strategy: fundraising is an art and a science – and your fundraising strategy is where that science is on full display. Your strategy should involve your fundraising database, organizational strategic plan, and case for support to identify ways to engage, ask, and thank your donors throughout the year.
Organizations that chase one fundraising trend to the next, or fundraising teams that don’t know how to connect with donors, are often lacking a strategy (or they have a strategy that hasn’t been evaluated or updated for years).
Leadership: fundraising is a team sport – and it starts at the top. Successful fundraising programs are understood and supported by board members, executive directors / CEOs, and leadership team members. Fundraising can flourish when the organization’s leaders all understand their roles and responsibilities – from sharing an inspiring vision to acting as connectors and ambassadors for the mission.
When leadership doesn’t support or understand fundraising, staff members can feel adrift, expected to build relationships with donors without the connections and leverage of organizational leaders.
Attitude: fundraising can take a toll. It’s a practice that’s filled with rejections, uncertainty, and emotional weight. It’s no surprise then, to learn that attitude plays a massive role in fundraising success. When your team members feel supported and aligned with the mission, they take care of each other and keep the big issues – such as relationship building – front and center.
You can learn a lot about an organization’s attitude toward fundraising based on how they talk about it. Comments like “we have to go begging” or fundraising hidden behind an endless series of raffles and auctions all suggest a limiting attitude – and one that will ultimately fail.
When strategy, leadership, and attitude are in alignment, fundraising can succeed because the team is aligned, driven, and ready to experiment and learn. When those elements are unaligned, organizations rely on unproven or out of date activities, staff gets burned out, and the mission ultimately suffers.
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