I’m a board member of a local nonprofit and we are about to launch our annual campaign. Like other nonprofits in our community, we are facing a very competitive funding environment. There are more agencies seeking more money from more sophisticated donors.

It’s enough to make you run for cover.

The reality is that fundraising is not easy. But it isn’t impossible. There are some mistakes to watch out for.

A common mistake is overestimating what your donors know about you.

A recent ad in “The Chronicle of Philanthropy” made this point very well. There is a picture of a couple with their checkbook. The text on the picture reads:

They don’t know:

* Why to choose your organization over another.
* How you handle your finances.
* If your letter is truthful.

And you want them to donate money?

Raise awareness of your mission. Let people know that you are good stewards of your finances. Let people know your results. Then, ask them for money.

Another common mistake is not investing time and resources in donor research When I was growing up, my father used to say, “Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.” His advice applies to fundraising.

The first place to start is with your donor records. Look for the donors who have given the largest gifts. Then look for the donors who have given the largest number of gifts. Then, look for the donors who have given recently. Make a list of those donors. They are the donors most likely to give again.

Continue to build on that relationship. Learn more about these donors. Gather information to find out what they think of your organization, why they give, what they want from their philanthropy. You can use surveys, interviews, focus groups or inserts in mailings.

There are two benefits to this approach. First, you will understand your current donors better. Second, you will have credible information that can help you find new donors or bring lapsed donors back into the fold.

Often organizations are using the wrong fundraising strategy. Sometimes organizations try to implement ideas that other organizations have used successfully. Before you do, you need to answer some key questions:

* What were the specific conditions that made that idea work for that organization?
* Do those conditions exist for your organization?
* Is this idea something that would appeal to your donors?
* Do we have the capacity to implement that strategy?
* What are the real costs?
* What can we realistically expect to receive?

A better approach is to learn what strategies have been successful for you. Build on those strategies. Build on what you know about your capacity, your fundraising history, and your donors.

Check the results of your latest fundraising campaign. Did all of your board members give? If they did, celebrate that success. If not, this is the group you need to work with first.

Avoid these fundraising mistakes and you will see better results from your fundraising.

About the Author: This article is by Judith Rothbaum at www.BuildingNonprofitSuccess.com – Helping Nonprofits Thrive.

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Posted on 24 February 2006

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