Three Big Challenges Facing Top Fundraisers Today

Three Big Challenges Facing Top Fundraisers Today

In this uncertain economic environment, many of us are facing unique fundraising challenges.

As you continually seek those wonderful major and principal gifts that will fund your mission, you might be dealing with uncertainty, “wait-and-see” donors, and confusion about who really wants to give now.

So the real question is: What do we need to focus on now, in order to be successful?

In our webinar yesterday, we discussed our 5 Keys to Unlock Major Gift Success in 2023 –and we focused on solving many of the challenges that are facing everyone today.

This article is a bit of a recap. Here are three of the challenges we discussed yesterday – and how to overcome them so that you’ll be wildly successful in 2023.

1. Fundraising challenge #1: Keeping your attitude positive.

In this environment, it’s absolutely essential to keep your attitude positive and your morale up. Especially when things feel unstable, you have to focus even more on your mindset.

Just think, everybody’s success – or their struggle – starts internally, with their own private thoughts.

Consider this: What’s going on in your head? Or in the heads of everyone in your team? Are their thoughts and feelings positive? Or are they dwelling on negativity and the possibility of failure?

Your attitude can make or break your success. Really.

It can motivate a team to quickly achieve a goal or take that same team down in defeat. Just the attitude.

Here are some attitudes and traits that we foster personally. And, they are really essential for successful fundraisers.   These will help you create and maintain the mindset you need to reach a big-time fundraising goal.

Being Cheerfully Aggressive.

Anyone raising money for an important cause has to be cheerfully aggressive or they will probably fail.

Years ago, a funder was offering advice to a group of fundraisers in the audience, and I will never forget what he said:

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“You all need to be cheerfully aggressive in promoting your cause to us, because if you don’t, then who will?

How’s that for a stark reminder that if you’re not out there, no one else is representing your important mission?

The million-dollar mindset.

The million-dollar mindset is an attitude of “can do.” It’s optimistic and enthusiastic. It expects success.  When you have this mindset, you’re completely comfortable talking about million-dollar-plus gifts.

And you are expecting these gifts to happen easily. Talking about it, and expecting it, helps to make it happen.

The attitude of abundance – not scarcity.

Part of the million-dollar mindset is a firm understanding that the world is abundant and that there is plenty of money around to support your cause.

You can’t change the world with an attitude of scarcity. Just like Ted Lasso, you have to believe it’s possible before you can achieve it.

We have no patience for board members or executive leaders who moan and groan about scarcity. This kind of negativity is like shooting yourself in the foot. Don’t let it happen to you!

2. Fundraising challenge #2: How to use data analytics to find the best prospects.

State-of-the-art data analytics can really be your best friend.  But one of the biggest challenges we heard that most fundraisers face is too much data!

We love data because it can provide a structured, disciplined approach to the major gift fundraising process. By analyzing your donor pool, you can discover where to spend your most valuable resource – your time.

The data will tell you how to find the best prospects.  

Knowing how to collect and use your own data can help you do this. It takes the guesswork out of prospecting and discovery.

The secret is turning data into actionable information. Most of what you need to know about potential prospects is right in your database.  You can find out the answers to important questions such as:

  • Their giving history – how much and how often do they give?
  • How do they respond to your requests for support?  Do they give online? In response to direct mail?
  • How do they give? Stock, cash, or donor-advised funds?
  • Do they volunteer with your organization? Serve on a board?
  • What do you know about them? Are they married? Have children? Where do they work?

Answer these questions, and then you are well prepared to have a much deeper Discovery Conversation with them to find out if they are likely major doors.

Try an RFM analysis to find your most passionate donors.

We often take a very simple approach, by analyzing the giving transactions and activity of top donors.

Here’s how we do this: First, we’ll select a list of top donors. Then we’ll investigate: How much are they giving? How often do they give? And finally, how recently have they given?

This is a simple RFM analysis (recency, frequency, and monetary value). We like this rubric because it really does identify your most passionate current donors.

It tells you who, among your vast donor base, is actively giving; who is responsive when you send out an appeal; and best of all, who’s giving the most when you ask.

Pulling out your most active, most passionate people is a major step forward. Now, you know where to focus and spend your time!

3. Fundraising challenge #3: Sorting through donors to find the prospects who want to give now. 

When you’re prospecting for major gifts, the key to success for any fundraiser is finding the right donor prospects.

Who, among all your supporters, is interested in helping your mission, right now? How do you know who has potential – or not?

We certainly don’t want your team spending time making discovery calls on people who are really just “suspects.”

Your goal is to find lovely people with the wealth capacity, the interest, AND a willingness to engage with you. That’s where you want to focus!

In-person Discovery Conversations with donor prospects.

Your donor database will help you identify likely major doors. Once you’ve done your data analysis, you have to get in front of these doors, and have an honest Discovery Conversation.

This direct conversation will find out the true level of their interest.

One of the biggest fundraising challenges is how to determine who the most important prospects are: the “hot” prospects. Not the cold ones!

Implement a Systematic Discovery Process 

The sooner you can find out whether a prospect has good potential or not, the better. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting tons of your valuable time, investing a lot of energy in the wrong donors.

You’ll fritter away your most valuable resource visiting people who either don’t have the capacity OR they don’t really have the interest.

The Discovery Process is based on asking the right questions.

Discovery is all about interviewing your prospects. And – this is key – you need to ask Direct Questions.  Remember, you can have a simple Discovery Conversation on the phone or zoom, which can save you even more time.

We think that every good fundraiser should learn how to directly ask about a donor’s interest level.

You can ask about your donor’s experience with your organization – what do they like or not? What impresses them the most? What aspects of your work are they most interested in?

Discovery questions help to assess your prospect’s interest. 

These are some of our favorite discovery questions:

  • Does the work of our organization resonate with you?
  • What other causes do you support?
  • What about our work do you really like?
  • Are you open to learning more about our work?

This last question especially, lets you know in no uncertain terms where the donor stands. And where you stand.

Bottom Line: Three Fundraising Challenges Facing Top Fundraisers Today.

Don’t forget: Keep your attitude positive, use data analytics to save time, and don’t miss those in-person Discovery Conversations!

Didn’t make it to our webinar? You can watch it here: Five Keys to Unlock Major Gift Success in 2023!

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover essential fundraising strategies.  If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Email if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.