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The 7 Cardinal Mistakes When Fundraising

Posted on 27 July, 2020 at 06:24

By Kudakwashe Ngoma 

Fundraising is the lifeblood of non-profit organisations. This is because it is the primary means of income for most charitable organisations. Fundraising thus comes in various means and on different platforms. Thousands of noble causes are put forward every single day, appealing for funding in pursuance of a greater good for the human species. The number of platforms for fundraising has been heightened in the 21st Century with the advent of the internet world, giving space to Donations website, Crowd Funding platforms like GoFundMe, and many others. For established organisations, it is apparent to have a properly defined strategy towards the fundraising for all programmes. Some avoidable mistakes, however, are common with organisations that are looking at fundraising, and this article seeks to highlight these and how organisations can have a way around them.

1.       Not Building Relationships with Your Donors

The process of fundraising is essentially about building relationships. As an NGO, you ought to nurture the relationship with your donors by staying in touch with them, thanking them for the contribution they made to the success of your organization. Get in touch with first-time donors immediately after their first contribution. Periodically call as many donors as possible, if not all, regardless of the size of their gift or assistance towards your programmes. To make this process as naturally efficient and as smooth as possible, schedule some donor “thank you” phone calls into your team’s calendar every week or organize an appreciation event, when you can spend the whole day calling or writing donors to thank them.

2.       Putting All the Golden Eggs into One Basket

It's easy to become complacent when you have an early 'angel' donor that funds your cause and program development, but it's a mistake to build your budget around just one funder. Sadly, this scenario is quite prevalent in many organisations. Organizations that are just getting started need to begin building a diverse funding portfolio from day one, before overreliance on an early supporter leads to a funding cliff that places their programs in jeopardy. The Covid-19 pandemic has hugely exposed this flaw in the funding strategies of several local organisations after major funders were started redirecting funds towards the immediate containment of the virus.

3.       Flying Solo

Successful people know lots of people. Therefore, strong networks provide opportunity to capitalize and solve problems in the face of adversity. It is highly encouraged no to try to be the 'lone ranger', and instead build strong networks and let others help you share, strategize and conquer the tasks at hand. Partner with other likeminded organisations if need be, or at least engage with them. You will find that many have been down similar roads and have left rocks for you to step on so you don't step into the same pitfalls. Strong and strategic partnerships in the developmental sector will see not only a significant rise in the amounts fundraised but also the expansion of the sector, for the greater good of the nation.

4.       Not Doing Your Due Diligence

As grant recipients, we expect funders to perform due diligence, but rarely is it reciprocal. Take the time to understand your funder’s expectations and restrictions to assess how they align with your own organizational priorities and capacities. It should be emphasised at this point that as an organisation, you don’t need to appeal to every funder. Your mission and focus do not always have to align with those of the funder. You are thus not encouraged to assume that every potential funder will love your cause, no matter how noble it is. Instead, use your resources to more effectively and doggedly pursue the donors whose focus aligns more closely with yours A little research can go a long way.

5.       Forgetting to Answer the “So what?”

One of the most common mistakes non-profits make is soliciting donations without answering the “so what?” question. Always make it a point top clearly state the purpose of the ask. What will the donation help with? Where does the money go? How is it going to make a difference? Be as specific as possible. Before launching a fundraising campaign, know exactly how that money is going to be spent.

Take these two sample fundraising appeals:

·         Kindly donate $10 to help with Covid19 relief in Zimbabwe.”

·         “Your donation of $10 will equip 1 health care worker with basic PPE (surgical mask and gloves) to respond to Covid19 patients in Zimbabwe for one day. PPE saves the health worker from also contracting the virus.”

Although both appeals ask for the same amount of money to create the same result, the second one has a much clearer pull to it. The second one clearly states a plan of action with a resulting outcome – the impact is visible. The more your donors know about the impact of their donation, the more likely they are to become (and stay) donors.

6.       Lacking Proper Planning & Implementation

There is an old adage which goes like, you can’t throw spaghetti at the wall and hope that it sticks. When it comes to fundraising, you definitely can’t leave everything to chance. All too often, non-profits create grandiose ideas that are expected to succeed, but don’t, because proper planning and implementation has not been established. Planning is key in ensuring that all goals and objectives are outlined, with strategic checkpoints to ensure fundraising efforts are met. As an organisation, you also need to really invest in the fundraising process. You can’t launch a $1 million fundraising campaign for $10, and hence there I need for proper and adequate planning and investing put into the fundraising campaign.

7.       Only Asking for Money

Don’t get us wrong! Fundraising efforts should be raising money, and your calls to action should not be hidden. However, if everything that your donors ever receive from you is fundraising solicitations, you are at risk of jeopardizing your relationship with them. This can make your donors feel like they’re just a cash cow, even though they donate to your organization because they care about your cause. Instead, invite your donors to take partial ownership of the great work your non-profit is doing. Ensure your communication plan includes an array of diverse outreach activities aimed at your donors. Include thank-you notes, success stories, and organizational updates. Keeping your donors in the loop and allowing them to interact with your organization in a variety of ways not only keeps the donor engagement and retention high, but it also increases their sense of belonging and loyalty to your organization.

The above common mistakes have the potential to ensure that your fundraising efforts are futile if they are not monitored. We can never overemphasise how apparent it is for an organisation to take time in coming up with fundraising strategies which suit their agenda, and if necessary, get the help of experts in the field of fundraising. As KFM Consultants, part of our vision is to see a thriving and sustainable development sector, and we are a phone call away if any needs assistance with their strategic planning or fundraising needs. 

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