Common Fundraising Pitfalls

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Written By: Marlene Mulligan, formerly Design & Development

Most every organization and every cause feels they need more funding. Some may not be too urgent, maybe in a place where they could do more with more and some realities may be quite urgent and in a place of barley being able to keep up with demand and keep the lights on. Whatever your situation, if you are facing fundraising challenges, its possible your organization may have succumbed to some of these common pitfalls we see among our 500+ members.

Fundraising Not Aligned to Organization Strategy
Org strategies are the long game for your organization. Fundraising is also the long game for your organization. Yet many of us are running our fundraising programs like they are short-term pursuits. The reality is that is takes on average 18 months to secure a donation. So if you are planning to launch a program in 2017, guess when you need to be fundraising for it? 6 months ago!

  • You know your fundraising is not aligned with strategy when you find yourself saying things like, “We are forecasting a $40,000 shortfall this year. Let’s do an event.”
  • Fundraising in aligned with strategy when you hear yourself saying, “We are forecasting a $40,000 shortfall this year. What in our plan are we going to delay until we raise the funds?”

Fundraising Not Aligned to Mission/ Your Impact
Two words. Mission drift. Your organization might be really successful at raising funds for projects and new initiatives, but struggling to cover its operating cost and planning to create more projects to raise money to keep going. This creates a never-ending fundraising challenge for your core programs. Funding for core programs must always be the priority.

  • You know your fundraising is not aligned with mission when you find yourself saying things like, “We should take on this new project because Foundation X has made it a priority this year and we want to have a good relationship with Foundation X.”
  • Fundraising in aligned with mission when you hear yourself saying, “We’ve explained to Foundation X that we can’t do the new project right now because all of our staff resources are already allocated. They’ve decided to donate to our core program this year so we can ramp up to partner with them on the project next year.”

Fundraising Not Fund Development
As explained in a previous blog fundraising is activities you undertake that garner donations and sponsorship like events, campaigns, grant writing, etc. These are short-term activities.

Fund development, on the other hand, is the strategic planning, coordination and management of fundraising activities so that they directly support your mission and generate reliable funding streams for the long-term.

It is natural for small and medium size organizations to be focused on fundraising activities, but when it is time for your organization to grow, or its operating budget is getting to the $1 million mark, increased levels of management become a necessity for your sanity.

  • In response to the question, “How are we shaping up for fundraising this quarter?” You know fund raising is happening but fund development is not when you hear someone saying, “We have 4 grant requests out and we are going to host our gala, but sponsorships are down this year across the board so instead of our usual $50,000 we hope to raise $40,000.
  • You know fund development is in place when you hear yourself saying, “We have 50 donor relationships we are cultivating valued at $500,000 in donations. Based on our success rate in past years, we forecast securing $100,000 of that. Our goal is to meet with 10 of these donors each month.”

If any of these scenarios resonate with you and you’d like to move forward on them, call and talk to our staff. I’ll bet we can help you get there.

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