Fundraising the SMART Way
Fundraising is the lifeblood of the nonprofit, and, successful or otherwise, determines the organization's ability to provide for the group it serves. Every organization attempts to lower overhead while increasing donations, but this often proves to be impossible within existing frameworks. Effective fundraising - increasing donations while engaging more donors and lowering costs - requires a sound strategy that turns major roadblocks into minor hurdles that are easily overcome. It's not about trying harder, it's about working smarter.
Fundraising the SMART Way provides the groundwork for a complete revamp of organizational fundraising systems. Author Ellen Bristol applies twenty years of corporate sales experience and eighteen years in fund development consultation to the problem of inefficient fundraising. Bristol turns her extensive sales expertise toward the perspective of 'selling' an organization to potential donors, increasing the donor pool, and lowering the cost of fundraising. The book details the questions every nonprofit should be asking to maximize the effectiveness of fundraising efforts, and encourages systematic strategy development by zeroing in on key factors such as:
Organizational goals, strengths, and weaknesses
Donor actions and motivations
Workload management and results QA
Opportunity evaluation and organizational action
The book outlines clear, concrete, actionable steps that can be immediately implemented to escalate income growth. Effective fundraising is sustainable, consistent, and on-target. It must exceed current need and expand to fill future need. Fundraising the SMART Way represents a true breakthrough in that it lays a foundation for true systemic overhaul, and can be the catalyst for the growth of any nonprofit.
Fundraising the SMART Way
Introduction: Why We Need a Fundraising Revolution
Revolutions take place when there's a disconnect between those doing the governing and those who are governed. If that disconnect becomes intolerable, revolution may ensue. They are usually a bloody mess; both sides are convinced of the rightness of their cause and will fight, literally to the death, to prove it. While we may certainly agree that the American, French, and Russian revolutions, to name a few, have brought about desirable changes, we also have to acknowledge that they came at grave cost to lives and property. Just ask Marie Antoinette how she felt about it.
I wrote this book to reveal the need for a revolution in the discipline of fundraising and how to bring it about. Those governing the work - including the governing board and the organization's senior management - are not well connected to those doing the work of fundraising, whom I'll call "the governed." Evidence of this disconnect is obvious. Fundraising results are lousy, in general, and they're not getting a whole lot better. Pound per pound, nonprofits bring in considerably less money than their for-profit counterparts do, even when the organizations are of similar size, makeup, and even area of focus. Nonprofits often enjoy levels of market awareness and general admiration that many for-profit businesses would kill for. So why are they willing to tolerate such anemic flows of income when they could do so much better?
On the whole, I would argue, the entire nonprofit sector suffers from our collective difficulty with measuring, managing, and improving fundraising through the use of certain business disciplines and management controls considered mission-critical by successful commercial companies. Too bad those disciplines seem to have bypassed the nonprofit sector overall. Here are a few insights.
While Giving USA's research report of 2013 shows modest increases in most philanthropic categories (individual and major gifts, grants, and corporate support) ranging from 3.5 percent to 4.4 percent, total giving as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) was flat from 2010 to 2012, at 2 percent. In fact, the peak year for giving to charity was 2006, during the U.S. housing bubble, when it rose to a grand total of about 2.25 percent.
The 2012 Survey Report from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, a collaboration between the Urban Institute and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) shows that "every $100 gained in 2011 was offset by $100 in gift attrition," and "every 100 donors gained in 2011 was offset by 107 in lost donors through attrition."
And I was stopped dead in my tracks by the June 19, 2013, GuideStar Blog on the "overhead myth" where several leading authorities in our field expose the weakness of using low overhead as a reliable indicator of an agency's performance. How many decades has it taken to figure out that the amount paid out in overhead has little to do with the agency's ability to achieve its mission or produce any results at all? If anything, low overhead is often a marker of poor performance, signaling that leadership has not invested properly in improvements.
When I first started my consulting practice in 1995, I was motivated to address the challenges that face people who raise money for a living (which includes corporate salespeople). It seemed to me that we were asking fundraising professionals and salespeople alike to do an extremely difficult job without a map or compass. We were asking them to navigate through an otherwise trackless wilderness to find those elusive prospects from whom they just might be able to extract money, and keep those people happy enough to continue funding us into the future. Our primary metrics were, and still are, based on how much we raised and not much else. If we raised or sold enough, we kept our jobs