If you’re on a non-profit board, or serve as an Executive Director, Development Director, or in another leadership role with a charitable organization, and you’re wondering why your non-profit isn’t raising more money, then read on…
Today, I want to present a simple, step-by-step checklist for non-profit leaders who are asking themselves that question. If you want to know why your organization isn’t raising more money that it is, go through this checklist and answer these questions.
It’s important to go through them in order, because the early questions are prerequisites to the later questions. Ideally, your answer for each question should be “yes.” But it won’t be… so answer honestly. And when you get to a question where the answer is “no,” stop the exercise and go and fix that problem. You won’t be able to move further down the list without doing so.
Ready? Here are the questions:
Question #1: Do 100% of Our Board Members Give to Our Organization?
If the answer is yes, move on to question #2.
If the answer is no, you need to make board giving a priority at your organization. No non-profit can experience true fundraising success with less than 100% board giving. Your donors, staff and volunteers expect it, and every single person on your board can afford to give at least $1 to your non-profit each year.
Go, run an organized board giving campaign, reach 100% board giving, and then come back.
Question #2: Are All of Your Board Members Engaged as Fundraising Ambassadors for Your Organization?
Every non-profit board member should be introducing new people to the organization. Are yours?
If the answer is yes, move on to question #3.
If the answer is no, you need to get your board more enthusiastic about being involved with fundraising. There are lots of ways for people to help with fundraising, and most of them do not involve making an ask. Offer your board training, motivation, and opportunities to be involved. Term out board members who refuse to do so. Then, come back.
Question #3: Is Your Organization’s Development Program Focused on Individual Donors?
Individual givers donate more than 70% of all charitable dollars given in industrialized nations. Are you putting building relationships with individual donors first, above events, grants, direct mail and all other fundraising tactics?
If the answer is yes, move on to question #4.
If the answer is no, now is the time to focus on individual donors. Your team should develop a prospect list of people who are involved with or know about your non-profit, and a plan for reaching out to those prospects to get them engaged and build a relationship with them. Once you change your focus to individual giving, come back.
Question #4: Do You Have at Least One Staff Member Who Works on Fundraising Full Time?
Can you imagine a car dealership without a sales person? No way! Yet somehow, we often think it is okay for non-profits to have a program staff, but no full-time fundraiser. Does your organization have a full-time fundraiser on board?
If the answer is yes, move on to question #5.
If the answer is no, stop what you are doing and figure out a way to bring one on board. It’s time to get serious about fundraising.
If your organization raises more than $500,000 per year, you can afford to hire one right now. You may need to juggle things around for the next year or two, but you can do it. Go hire a fundraiser.
If your non-profit is raising less than $500,000 per year and you decide you can’t afford a full-time fundraiser, then your Executive Director or Chief Executive should be spending nearly 100% of his or her time fundraising until you can hire a full-time fundraiser.
If your non-profit is a start-up, and only has one full-time staff member, then that staff member should be partnering with one or more board members to do the work of a full-time fundraiser, until the time when you can afford to hire a Development Director.
Go, figure out a way to hire a full-time fundraiser, and then come back.
Question #5: Do You Have a Chief Fundraiser Who Can Lead, and Who is Paid Well to Do So?
Whether your non-profit has one full-time fundraiser or twenty, your Development Director, V.P. Development or other chief fundraiser should be someone who is a fundraising entrepreneur, who can lead, motivate, and get results. Do you have someone like that leading your fundraising efforts?
That type of skill does not come cheap. If you have someone like that, and you are paying them poorly, they will leave. If you don’t have someone like that, and you are offering peanuts, they will go elsewhere. In my mind, the lead fundraiser on your team should be the second highest paid person on your staff, after the chief executive. Is that the case at your organization?
If the answers to these questions are yes, then move on to question #6.
If the answers to these questions are no, then go find a chief fundraiser who can lead, and pay him or her what they are truly worth to your non-profit. Then come back.
Question #6: Does Your Non-Profit Have a Recently Written Fundraising Plan?
Every non-profit needs a strong, well-written fundraising plan in order to raise the money they need to thrive. Does your organization have one?
If the answer to this question is yes, then move on to question #7.
If the answer to this question is no, then stop what you are doing and go write a fundraising plan for your non-profit. Then come back.
Question #7: Does Your Non-Profit Have a Written Case for Support?
Every non-profit needs a compelling and emotional case for support. This case statement needs to be written down and referred to often. Does your organization have one?
If the answer to this question is yes, then move on to question #8.
If the answer to this question is no, then now is the time to write a case for support for your non-profit. Go and do it, then come back.
Question #8: Is Your Organization Dedicating Enough Resources to Fundraising?
Raising more money means spending more time, energy and manpower on fundraising. Is your non-profit putting enough resources into development? (The right person to answer this question is the chief fundraiser we talked about in question #5, not the Executive Director or Board Chair)
If the answer to this question is yes, then move on to question #9.
If the answer to this question is no, then carve out enough manpower and money to be able to accomplish all of the things you said you were going to do this year when you wrote your fundraising plan. (E.g. if you said you were going to double the amount you raise online this year, are you spending twice as much on online fundraising? )
Put these resources in place, then come back.
Question #9: Is Your Team Making Calls and Doing Meetings?
The best way to build relationships with donors is to talk to them in person. The second best way is on the phone. Too many non-profits hide behind mail, e-mail and event invitations and in turn, never build deep and trusting relationships with their donors. Is your individual fundraising based on conversations, meetings and phone calls?
If the answer to this question is yes, then move on to question #10.
If the answer to this question is no, then get your team together, pull out your prospect list and donor file, and start assigning donors to fundraisers. Have your team start building better relationships by going out to see your donors at their homes and offices and for meals. Have your fundraisers pick up the phone to thank donors for their gifts, to ask donors for advice, and to update prospects on your work.
Build a culture of real, personal communication with your donors, then come back.
Question #10: Is Your Team Asking for Referrals?
Referrals can be a huge source of prospects for almost any non-profit. Your staff, volunteers, board members, donors and supporters can and should be referring new prospects to your non-profit on a regular basis. But they will only do it if they are asked. Is your non-profit asking for referrals?
If the answer to this question is yes, then move on to question #11.
If the answer to this question is no, put a program in place to start asking everyone in your organization’s orbit for referrals at least once per year. Implement this program, and then come back.
Question #11: Is Your Non-Profit Communicating With Your Donors Regularly?
Donors need to hear from you – by phone, e-mail, newsletter and more – on a regular basis, in between asks. Is your non-profit communicating with your donors regularly, without asking for money every time?
If the answer to this question is yes, then move on to question #12.
If the answer to this question is no, then now is the time to put a true donor communications calendar in place for your organization. Your donors should be hearing from you 2-4 times (without any solicitations) for every ask you make them. (This is true regardless of whether those asks are in person, on the phone, or through a direct mail letter or event invitation).
Start communicating with your donors and prospects, then come back.
Question #12: Are You Making Asks?
People don’t give unless they are asked. I can’t tell you how many non-profits think they are making asks, when they are really not. An ask is not an ask unless it is a question, and unless you ask for a specific amount. Major and mid-level donors should be asked in person or on the phone.
Is your non-profit making asks of your donors and prospects on a regular basis? Are you asking the right way?
If the answer is yes, then move on to question #13.
If the answer is no, gather your team and put an ask plan in place. Figure out who you are going to ask for gifts, how much you are going to ask for, and when the ask will be made. Also, develop a plan for how often you will ask your various levels of donors for gifts.
Once you have this plan in place, train your team on how to make great asks, then come back.
Question #13: Are You Trying New Things, Using the 80/20 Rule?
Every non-profit should be trying new fundraising tactics, or else they will stagnate. Every time you try something new (say, for example, a crowdfunding campaign) you should track the results. Keep the 20% of these new tactics that are producing the best results, and discard the other 80%. Is your organization trying new things?
If the answer is yes, move on to the final recommendation.
If the answer is no, draw up a list of new fundraising strategies you would like to try at your organization. Dedicate the time, money and energy you need to really test out these strategies to see if they will work for you. Keep what works, discard the rest, then come back.
The Final Recommendation: Thinking Bigger about Fundraising
If you got this far, and were able to answer “yes” to every question, then the reason you are not raising more money is simple… you (and your organization) need to think bigger about fundraising. You need to set higher goals, tighten up your deadlines, and cast a bigger net.
You’ve got all of the fundamentals in place… now is the time to jump in with both feet and think bigger about fundraising than you ever have before. The results will follow.
Photo Credits: Horia Varlan, Steve Wilson and starmanseries.