How to Get Off the Dang Fundraising Treadmill


I wish you could have been there.article-1165935-042F4620000005DC-936_468x300

It was a chilly winter day. I was in a large back room of a big office building, meeting with the board of a top-notch local nonprofit.

This savvy board had gathered with me for a fundraising retreat/workshop.

I was interviewing the Development Director — in front of the board — about the organization’s fundraising program.

(I always like for the board to hear directly from the staff about their fundraising challenges and opportunities.)

Then I asked her the golden question.

This is the question that makes board members sit up on the edge of their seats and listen closely:

“How much money do you think is out there RIGHT NOW for your organization . . . but you don’t have the time or resources to go after it?

Without hesitating for a second, she said: “$300,000.”

Well, you could have heard a pin drop.

There were even a couple of audible gasps among the board members.

This woman knew EXACTLY how much she wasn’t able to pursue. . . . NOT because it didn’t exist but because she was stuck doing events and admin work when she could have been out of the office working with large donors.

Then a board member in the very back of the room piped up: “I think it’s closer to $500,000.”

That’s how much money this organization was leaving on the table.

It was enough to make you weep.

How much money is your organization leaving on the table each year?

How much money is your organization leaving on the table each year?

Even with a fundraiser who was smart, dedicated, and hardworking.

This is the biggest fundraising challenge for everyone – you know it and I know it.

You have GOT to find a way to free your staff and yourself up to go after those major gifts.

It is the ONLY, only, only way to get off the dang fundraising treadmill.

If you don’t ever focus on major donors, you’re just putting out fires.

Dealing with routine admin crap, instead of connecting with major donors.

Raising hundreds when you could be raising thousands (or more).

If you don’t tackle and master major gift fundraising, it’s unlikely your organization will ever grow.

It’s that simple.

It’s also that complicated.

These ideas may help:

— Hang with me to learn how easy and fun major gift fundraising can be

— Look for ways to free up your time

— Say “no” more often.

— Explore how to fund an admin or tech support person that will free up your time, and

— Get coaching and training to improve your major gift skills.

By the way, do you want to know what happened after the board retreat?

The wise, business-oriented board members hired a part-time admin person for the development director the very NEXT WEEK.

They wanted to put their well-paid and skilled fundraiser to work at her highest and best use.

It’s good old human resources 101 – to deploy staff resources at the right place.

My advice to get off the Fundraising Treadmill:

If you’re a frustrated fundraiser, commit EVERYTHING you’ve got to finding the support and resources you need so you can raise the money that’s out there.

Maybe it’s better software. Maybe it’s a part-time admin. Maybe it’s my major gifts coaching program.

Whatever it is, it’s going to be worth literally every penny, because it’s gonna lead straight  to more major gifts.)

If you’re that fundraiser’s boss or other decision maker, decide to stop being inadvertently penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Resolve that you’ll do whatever it takes to set your fundraisers up to bring in those major gifts.

Don’t leave hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars on the table for your wonderful cause!

Major Gifts vs “Other Priorities?”

I got a shock recently when I discovered that some fundraiser’s bosses had vetoed their participation in my major gift coaching, citing “other priorities” and “budgetary concerns.”

The fundraisers were sssoooooo disappointed. I felt for them.

That’s the kind of shortsighted thinking that will keep you and your organization ON the treadmill.

What software, coaching, admin, or other support do you think would make a difference to YOUR major gifts program?

I’d love to know! Let’s create a discussion!

Leave a comment and tell me.