When it comes to fundraising, a fear of failure will get you nowhere. But so will constantly repeating the same mistakes. Here’s 7 to avoid.
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new,” said Albert Einstein. Quite right, and mistakes are an inherent part of innovation and moving forward. But some mistakes will have you just plain stuck when it comes to fundraising. Here’s seven of them – along with some valuable guidance to help you overcome them.
1. You write like a robot
“I’m making a vow, and you can join me if you’d like,” says Jeff Brooks, professional fundraiser of over 30 years. His vow goes like this:
I will always do my best not to put in writing something that would make me sound like a robot if I said it in person.
“I’ll check for that kind of garbage writing by reading my stuff aloud and keeping a human listener in my mind,” says Jeff. His pet peeve? The generic “We thank you for your support”. Read the full blog post here.
2. You’re over-designing your email stories
A client of The Better Fundraising Co. started sending monthly ‘e-stories’ last November. And since then, their average email open rate has increased from 24% to 38%. An e-story is a low-fi, simply-formatted email from your CEO or relevant program manager to your donors. It tells one ‘before and after’ story. You want your e-stories to look like they came from your CEO/program manager’s personal email. No formatting, no header image, no photo, no links to social, you get it. It should feel personal. Read the full blog post, which includes the steps of putting a successful e-story together, here.
3. Your donor has just made a mega gift to another nonprofit
Ugh, insert sobbing emoji here. There are, of course, a multitude of reasons that could explain why your donor went elsewhere, but it pays to take a look at what may have gone wrong within your team. This Gail Perry Group blog post provides five suggestions:
- Your team were wasting time by doing tasks other than fundraising (you know, those ‘all-hands-on-deck’ situations that have nothing to do with your role and ultimately hurt fundraising activity)
- Your team was wasting time by chasing the wrong opportunities (they missed the donor while spending time on the wrong prospects)
- Staff had too many prospects in their portfolios and were spread too thin (a major gift officer can really only give quality time to around 60 – 70 prospects)
- Gift officers did not know how to have a direct conversation with the donor (if you want to get a conversation right, start with questions so you really understand your donors’ motivations)
- The gift officer was under pressure to make mega gift asks too quickly (don’t rush your donors, and put forward gift opportunities that matter to them)
4. You’re making design mistakes in your direct mail that means your donors can’t or won’t read it
5. Your small nonprofit creates a fundraising plan that doesn’t reflect your time or resources (or you’re too busy to create it at all)
If you want to raise as much money as you possibly can, you need a plan. The bad news is that most small nonprofits don’t have a fundraising plan. The good news is that planning doesn’t have to be hard, complicated, or elusive. Don’t let busyness, analysis paralysis or perfectionism stop your small NFP from getting the best possible start off the fundraising blocks. Read about the common mistakes that will trip up your fundraising plan – and how to overcome them – from Bloomerang here.
6. You fail to see the alignment between regular giving and gifts-in-wills
Both monthly giving and legacy giving are ways to assure long-term revenue. And monthly donors are showing you how committed they are to your cause. So why not combine them? It makes perfect sense, yet most nonprofits don’t really consider monthly donors in their legacy marketing plans. The Clarification blog shares some great and doable tips that will help you create sweet harmony between RG and GIW.
7. You don’t evaluate
You’re on the hamster wheel. You’re churning out one appeal after the next. You’re scrambling to managed a full-to-bursting portfolio of donor prospects. Or maybe you’re the sole fundraiser in a small nonprofit who wears every fundraising hat. Whatever your predicament, there’s a good chance you’re in a cycle of pulling together enough numbers to satisfy the monthly board report before it’s “NEXT”! But are you really understanding why your fundraising works or fails? This blog post from Get Fully Funded steps out how evaluate your progress mid-year, when you still have six months to right the ship.
Finally, we started with Jeff Brooks and we’ll finish with him too. Here are his thoughts on failure and how to make the most of it: 5 kinds of fundraising failure and how to make the best of them.