The 2% (non)Solution

The workshop was good. The presenter, dynamic and on point. The audience seemed engaged. And yet, I couldn’t help but think it all felt a bit stale. A bit too familiar.

For all the years I’ve been in and around fundraising, we’ve been doing the same things. Oh sure, tools change, but the techniques do not vary very much. We do this because it works. Or so we say. But does it?

Two percent. That’s how much of the gross domestic product (GDP) that is accounted for by charitable giving. Some

Charitable giving accounted for 2.1% of gross domestic product in 2014
Charitable giving accounted for 2.1% of gross domestic product in 2014

years it does go up slightly. Those years are the ones where there is a sexy natural catastrophe. You know, a tsunami, an earthquake in a poverty struck country. Some years, GDP dips below the 2 percent. Those are the quiet years. But mainly, we are stuck. So what we do works, sort of.

Part of the problem, I think, is that sort of. We only sort of work the things we need to do. Too many nonprofits don’t have written plans. Don’t work the plans they have. Never sit down to screen their prospects and don’t keep the list of top prospects close to hand.

Another part of the problem is our attitude. Fundraising is a slog. Our board members don’t want to participate. We don’t ensure enough resources to fundraise effectively. Too many nonprofits have one or no person development offices. And those people are working very hard, but I suspect few are working very smart. Not because they don’t want to, but because (a) they don’t have that written plan, (b) they get pulled and pushed in too many different directions and (c) they don’t have a wide and deep prospect pool.

Because there is no written plan, there is not strategy behind what fundraising happens. We send out annual appeals, have galas or other special events, write grants. We are frantic and frenetic but we are not thoughtful about what we are doing.

If we are lucky, we get a fundraising goal to aim for. If we are not, we flail about, trying to raise as much as we can. So the first thing you must do is pick a number. Pick it out of the air if you must, but decide how much money your organization has to raise, Then create a gift range chart. You know, those charts that consultants provide you for capital campaigns. There’s a decent one that Blackbaud offers

Instead of using it to think about your donor list, use it to consider the ways you can best reach this goal.

At the top are the gifts that really do require personal attention. It’s not enough to send these folks a letter and hope for the best. You need to know them and make sure they know–and yes, love–you. At the bottom are those people who are really important but impossible to meet with personally. So how are you going to make sure that each and every one of them feels part of your organization? That they all hear from you as often, if not more often, just to inform and thank them as to be asked for support.

In the middle are the people who need one (or two) personal, face-to-face interaction(s) and a lot of personal but more arms length attention.

And all of us need to know that we are part of it all. It is not a donor giving your organization money so your organization can do all these cool and important things. It is you together partnering to change the world for the better and to truly make a difference.

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