“If all I’m measured on is money, this is not the job for me.” These are the words shared with us by a nonprofit professional with years of fundraising experience. But the organization he works for measures him on how much money he brings in, not on any of the other aspects of fund development and fundraising. What do you think? Is money the only measure of success? How do you measure fundraising success?
Here’s what we know and what we teach, based on our experience: fundraising is a team sport, it is a philanthropic activity, not sales. Yes, nonprofi ts depend on gifts, grants, donations, sponsorships, and fees. But funds raised – money in the door – is only one measure of fundraising success. Sustained fundraising depends on planning; planning is the work of fund development; and fund development drives sustainable fundraising.
There’s a dual focus that needs to be sustained: securing funds for current operations and stewarding gifts and building relationships. In pursuing that dual focus, the measure of success extends beyond money. Here is a list of the types of activities that staff, board members, and volunteers can prioritize alongside fundraising. We ask that you consider these and discuss them amongst the leadership at your nonprofi t or HBCU. Which can you prioritize now, or in the future? How will you measure progress against these?
Leadership development. A strong and active board should be at the core of an organization’s fundraising. This should be combined with an executive director who spends the majority of her time focused on fundraising and fund development. Look also for fund development staff that are experienced and have the skills to execute. These three components of leadership should be nurtured consistently.
Case for support. Can you talk with others about what you are raising money for? Can you communicate your anticipated impact and how funds will be used? Your case should be rooted in your mission, values and strategic plan.
A strong annual fundraising campaign. Look closely at where your money comes from each year, at who has “lapsed” in their giving, and at how you are attracting and retaining new donors. It is not unusual to have a 20% to 40% attrition rate year-over-year. That means you need to always be engaged in attracting new donors and sustaining relationships with current and lapsed donors. Look to secure the majority of funds from individuals and engage volunteers as fundraisers.
Donor cultivation and stewardship. These are at the heart of fundraising: you want to build your circle of supporters, donors, advocates, and fundraisers. This takes time. And it's worth it. Yes, you want to employ technology, but you want to use it to facilitate relationships. Those employed by a nonprofit and who govern as board members are stewards working on behalf of others. Spend time building the circle of those who provide financial and nonfinancial support.
Fundraising is about growing philanthropy, about encouraging others to give now and beyond. Let’s measure the multiple actions required to sustain our organizations.
[Copyright 2021 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Video and phone conferencing services are always available. Let us help you grow your fundraising. Call us at (901) 522-8727.