If you’re working for a small or mid-sized non-profit, there’s a good chance that you often feel overwhelmed with fundraising. There’s so much to do, and so little time (and money) to do it that the odds can seem stacked against you.
Your board and executive director are probably supportive of your fundraising efforts. But, chances are they just don’t understand how hard it can be to run a development program that brings in immediate revenue while also paving the way for long-term financial stability. That’s why they’re constantly giving you ideas for new fundraising activities, while at the same time squeezing your development budget and staff resources.
Fear not. I have found that when a fundraiser is feeling overwhelmed with fundraising, the answer to the problem is almost always the same…
Overwhelmed fundraisers are almost always trying to do too many things, and chances are that none of them are getting done well. The answer is to cut back on your fundraising activities by focusing on the strategies that are working for your non-profit while not investing precious time or resources into marginal fundraising activities (For more on this, read Analyzing Fundraising Strategies through the 80/20 Principle).
Most fundraisers know that the vast majority of money available to non-profits is donated by individuals, not corporations or foundations. How well are you cultivating, stewarding, and asking individual donors to give to your organization? If you’re feeling overwhelmed and you’re not giving individual fundraising the time it deserves, but you’re still writing new grants (as opposed to simply renewing grants you already receive) then you are making a mistake.
Likewise, for smaller non-profits, there’s more money to be made from personally asking your prospects and upgrading your current donors than there is from running a massive direct mail prospecting campaign. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, cut out the direct mail prospecting, and focus on cultivating your individual donors.
Fight the Urge
Don’t be afraid to cut things out of your fundraising plan. Resist the urge to keep all of your fundraising plates spinning. Do a cost-benefit analysis of each one of your tactics. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it is clear that you can NOT keep doing everything you are currently trying to do.
If you are raising $100 per hour for the time you are spending on online fundraising, but only $50 per hour for the time you are spending planning and running your fundraising events… which tactic do you think you should cut?
Your board may balk at canceling a silent auction that is expected to raise $15,000 for your organization, but they may change their mind when you show them that it takes you 100 hours to seek auction items, invite guests, and hold the event… and only 10 hours of work to raise $15,000 from individual donors.
Focus on what matters in your fundraising. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, go with your gut… reduce the number of activities you are trying to manage, and redouble your efforts on those tactics that are raising the most money for your non-profit.
Photo Credit: Andy Blackledge