Searching for Fundraising Success

Changes in the way nonprofit organizations operate have occurred over the last few years, some of which we never saw coming, while others were foreseeable. Professional fundraising, too, has undergone transformations, though certain principles remain unchanged. As we approach the AFP ICON conference – the world’s #1 fundraising conference – now is a good time to reflect on several practices that significantly impact an organization’s ability to grow fundraising levels.

1. Donor Acquisition & Retention

Genuine Conversations 

Like any long-term relationship, effective communication is paramount. Engaging in genuine conversations about the donor’s values and desired impact is critical.

“The upside is in verifying that the donor’s values and desired impact aligns with your organization and what you can offer. The downside is that you may learn what the donor expects and what you can deliver are not the same,” says Rick Peck, independent philanthropy advisor with Richard C. Peck Consulting, LLC.

Donor Trust

Consistent and accurate recordkeeping demonstrates professionalism, while
transparency builds trust.

Donors are more likely to support an organization that shares successes and challenges. “Emphasize your organization’s successes and challenges with equal weight. The donor will appreciate what you have done, is more likely to be invested in where you need to go, and will want to help you get there,” says Rick.

Development Professionals are “Relationship Glue”  

Donors connect with individuals who believe in, and effectively convey, the mission of an organization. It is essential to have skilled, knowledgeable leaders within the development team who represent the organization with polish and authenticity. “It is equal parts authentic relationship-building and very strong representation of the organization,” says Rick.

“Fundraising is a team sport that requires a multi-pronged approach to best serve your organization and achieve your fundraising goals,” writes Katherine Griswold and Maya Steinberg from the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Cultivating relationships between the donor, relationship manager, and development team strengthens donor commitment, and ensures continuity in the event of personnel changes.

2. Hire & Retain Great Fundraising Talent

Salary and benefits have always been important in attracting talent and it is not surprising that in the current market, organizations have reexamined their compensation packages to ensure that they stack up in the marketplace. Offering work location options, remote and hybrid, has already been adopted by most nonprofits to be the employer of choice.

Duke Haddad, Ed.D., writing about fundraising professionals for NonProfit Pro says, “These people are unique and possess integrity, intelligence, intuitiveness, organization, and persistence while being results focused, donor centric, intrinsically motivated, high energy, and sellers. Remember these mental notes when seeking the best fundraising professional for your organization.”

Too little support, lack of professional development opportunities, or an organizational infrastructure that does not invest in support staff and tracking systems makes it difficult to create and sustain fundraising success. It also causes good fundraising professionals to leave their job.

“A healthy, productive work environment that allows employees to flourish not only acknowledges and rewards individuals who effectively promote your mission, it reduces the disruptive fundraising impact that frequently accompanies loss of development staff,” says Barbara Gebhardt, CEO of Career Blazers Nonprofit Search.

3. Embrace Online Giving

The shift toward online and mobile giving continues to accelerate post pandemic, as does the pull for donors to shift dollars to causes based on local or global current events. Understanding giving patterns and recognizing how it affects your donor is invaluable knowledge.

Eighty one percent of Millennials and 76 percent of Gen Z only donate online or through mobile devices. Sixty-one percent of Baby Boomers prefer to give online today, reports Giving USA in their special report Giving by Generation.

“Establishing a robust and positive digital giving experience is critical to establishing trust, and receiving dollars from today’s donor,” says Rick. “Less can be more. Make it easy for donors to find what they want without bombarding them with digital content. It is an art and a science.”

The search for fundraising success never ends. But it always starts with people.

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