What’s the Real Cost of a Fundraising Opportunity?

Every fundraising opportunity has three categories of costs. One is obvious, the second is obscured by the opportunity itself, and the third is investment inherent in the structure of an organization. The first is always considered when deciding whether to pursue an opportunity. It is a direct cost. The other two are indirect. One of the indirect costs forms an either-or question and is often neither seen nor considered. The other is a question of capability. The three categories of opportunity costs are: Resources required to pursue an opportunity. Benefit that could have been derived if those resources had been applied to a different opportunity. Ability to pursue an opportunity. We plot the first cost on spreadsheets, then create budgets, and even institute measurement tools before we begin our pursuit of an opportunity. The second cost, the cost of opportunity lost, too often receives only a cursory examination early in the decision-making process. Sometimes it’s ignored completely. The third we can do little about at the moment of opportunity, but failure to recognize and understand it can turn an opportunity lethal. In fundraising we are used to making decisions based on return on investment (ROI). We decide to invest in a fundraising initiative because we believe it will generate income substantially greater than the cost of implementation. In fact we look for opportunities that strongly leverage that expense. We want an outcome, an ROI, that delivers a high multiple of what we have invested. But what about what will be lost because some other course of action is denied those resources? The answer to that question isn’t easily plotted...

Holiday Giving: Make It Bigger and Better Next Year

As we enter the final days of the Holiday giving season, a question occurs to me. It’s one all nonprofit development officers who expected this season to yield increased giving over last should ask themselves: Was I prepared? Come January it’s tempting to sit back and rest after a hectic three months. Maybe even pat yourself on the back a bit. That’s especially true if year-over-year you did better. But making dollar amount raised, number of gifts, and average size of a gift the only measures of success or failure is a mistake. Doing your job well in the final quarter can boost donations and cover up what you failed to do in the first three. When I ask were your prepared, I’m not asking about your readiness to receive an influx of donations. Nor whether you created and executed well-crafted appeals. I’m asking what you did during the first ten months of the year to enlarge your base of potential donors. How did the number of qualified prospects with which you began the final two months of this year compare with last year? Was the number substantially stronger? Was it ten, twenty, thirty percent…higher? I suggest you look at those numbers. Don’t kid yourself. Be ruthless in your analysis of what constitutes qualified. Then deconstruct everything you did to make this year’s number substantially larger than last year’s. I bet you’re going to be disappointed in your efforts. January is a great time to develop plans for making your organization better prepared to optimize the next holiday giving season. Then February through October carryout those plans. Make it...

Make Your Mission Statement a Fundraising Tool

A nonprofit organization’s mission statement should be its principal case for support—the main reason why anybody should ever consider donating to the organization. Every other statement a nonprofit makes about its good works past, present, or future should derive from the content of a well crafted mission statement. A mission statement should be clear, concise, and active. It should literally trip off the tongue. The gist of it should be easily remembered. Think of it as your elevator pitch—what you want someone to know about your organization when you have 20 seconds or less to tell them (the time it takes for an elevator ride). That elevator ride may be the only chance you ever get to pitch your organization to a prospective donor. Make it count. A prospect who hears an organization’s mission statement should walk away with an absolute understanding of the primary purpose of that organization—the part of its identity it will never give up. There are those who will argue that fundraisers don’t need to worry about the mission statement. They’ll suggest that the fundraising story can be told successfully irrespective of the mission statement.  Don’t believe it. A mission statement is rooted in an organization’s founding and permeates its existence. It should be the first and best argument for support. Clear, Concise, and Active The absence of a clear, concise, active statement of mission hampers fundraising efforts. An organization cannot have clarity in fundraising if its statement of mission is murky or fails the test of user friendliness. A clear mission statement is easily understood. It is written in common, everyday language. It doesn’t...

Marcus Haile Joins Raise-Funds as a Content Contributor

It’s been more than a year and a half since Tony Poderis retired from his role as the chief content producer for Raise-Funds.com. In that time Dave Patterson has continued to manage the site and produce content on his own. I am happy to announce that is no longer the case. Marcus Haile, chief development officer at the Jacksonville Florida Cathedral Arts Project, has joined the Raise-Funds.com team as a content contributor and has written his first article—Accountability & Job Performance for Nonprofit Fundraisers.  In the article Marcus shares his thoughts and experiences about how development professionals are and should be held accountable by their bosses. I urge you to read this thoughtful examination of a subject that faces all in the business of raising funds for nonprofits. And, please, share your thoughts, concerns, and questions in the comments section following the article. Welcome aboard...

Landing Pages for Small-Gifts Campaigns

Email and social media are absolutely great tools for soliciting and achieving small gifts. That’s especially true for mini campaigns trying to raise money for tightly defined specific purposes. You develop a strategy for taking the campaign to the digital marketplace—usually email and various social media—then create a landing page that those tools will send prospects to. Then you sit back and wait to count the money, right? Not so fast there. What about that landing page and its role in the process of solicitation, giving, and fulfillment? That landing page can make or break your campaign. Read the new article Building a Small-Gifts Campaign Landing Page to learn important dos and don’ts of online mini campaigns and small...