Four Do’s and Don’ts for Nonprofit Success in 2019

Four Do’s and Don’ts for Nonprofit Success in 2019

As you strategize and think through what 2019 will look like for your nonprofit organization, I encourage you to avoid making these four common mistakes. You can think of them are New Years Resolutions or just good advice from a fundraising consultant who’s been helping nonprofits succeed for nearly 30 years. 

  1. DON’T Over-solicit

We recently shared that 65% of donors who made first fit to an organization do not make a second gift. Why is that? Donors reportedly stop giving for the following reasons: 69% are over-solicited, 64% say communications are focused on asking for more money; 63% cite a lack of measurable results; 62% are no longer inspired by the mission; and 58% believe that the overhead costs are too high. In short, they are tired of feeling like an ATM without a connection to the organization.

DO Show Genuine Gratitude

Donors are tired of being treated as transactions. Instead, organizations should be giving back to their donors – giving genuine gratitude, valuable information, and stories of their impact. We always recommend organizations take a donor-centered fundraising approach where donors are cultivated in on-going relationships, valued for their unique contributions, and thanked for their specific gift. Donors want to be thanked promptly. They don’t want the thank you letter to be a listing of the latest accolades or accomplishments of the organization, and strictly forbidden is an overt or veiled request for more funding. They just want to be thanked. 

  1. DON’T Put Any Warm Body on the Board of Directors

We have a saying at our firm: “No organization can rise above the level of its board.” The makeup and commitment of a nonprofit board is its lifeblood. A great board can propel an organization to unimagined heights, and, conversely, a poor board will mire it in quicksand until it finally sinks.

All too often, nonprofits, particularly newer organizations, are more concerned with filling all their board seats than with making sure the people they are recruiting are going to be good, dedicated, supportive, hard-working board members who can really lead the organization to success.

DO Go for Quality Over Quantity

It’s much better to have a small board of all the right people than a large board full of the wrong people. Nonprofits need to look for people who have a shared passion for the cause they are addressing, along with another needed characteristic. Perhaps you need a lawyer or a real estate expert or someone with a background in social services on your board — these candidates also need to really care about the issue. And it does not hurt if they have the ability and desire to make a significant financial contribution. We can help you establish and management an effective board. Learn about all of the services available to you on our website.

  1. DON’T Ignore Cryptocurrency

There is a lot of misunderstanding about cryptocurrency — what it is, how to use it, and where it comes from. I think many people think of it as a “black web” currency that you need to have when someone hacks your data and wants to sell it back to you. But, the fact of the matter is that cryptocurrency has become a legitimate form of payment for legitimate goods and services, including charitable contributions.

DO Plan Well for Crypto

We all have different comfort levels with technology and how “cutting-edge” we are willing to live. Regardless, cryptocurrency is a growing form of charitable contribution. Nonprofit leaders need to proactively determine how their organization plans to handle cryptocurrency gifts to avoid making arbitrary or “emergency” decisions when dealing with donors. By taking these steps your organization will be proactively ready for the wave of future gifts.

  1. DON’T Pursue Perfection

Finally, and probably most importantly, don’t get caught pursuing perfection. Many of us think of perfection as the goal. After all, each of us wants to be the best, right? Yet, the pursuit of perfection can be your worst enemy when it comes to fundraising. Perfection consumes your time, feeds procrastination, makes you forget the fundamentals, encourages philanthropy atrophy, and creates donor drift. Read my Forbes article on the topic for a full explanation.

  • Perfection Consumes Time: I repeatedly see clients spending hours and hours going through a myriad of edits to their case statement. While editing and proofreading are important, at some point you must put down the red editing pen, stop talking about it and start moving forward with your campaign.
  • Perfection Feeds Procrastination: This often manifests itself as the development officer who never gets around to the solicitation of donors because they are always waiting for the perfect set of circumstances. Instead, they end up stuck working on a perpetual cycle of cultivation steps.
  • Perfection Forgets Fundamentals: A development officer who’s stuck in a cycle of seeking perfection isn’t soliciting the donors … so the donor probably won’t give a gift. This is a fundamental principle that development officers often lose sight of. 
  • Perfection Encourages Donor Drift: When you aren’t asking for their contributions, donors assume their help is either not needed or not wanted, and they may engage with other organizations that are actively seeking and wanting their help. With so many organizations vying for attention, it’s easy for donors to be redirected and drift away.

DO Pursue Excellence

I encourage development officers to keep in mind that the more complicated something is, the less likely it is to ever be perfect. Working with donors is a complicated dance. While you should strive for excellence, perfection should not be the goal.

The good news is, it’s not the eloquence of the words on paper, the clever phrase or the perfectly timed ask that are ultimately going to sway donors to support your project. What motivates donors to give is the vision of the organization, the urgency of the needs, the validity of the proposed solution and, most of all, their relationship with your organization and leadership. Be clear, be authentic and be responsive to your donors.

Instead of pursuing perfection, set your sights on recognizing when good enough is good enough, and start making real progress on your fundraising campaign.

DO Realize You’re Not Alone

This may seem like a tall order – all these do’s and don’ts – but our expert consultants at Alexander Haas are here to help your organization succeed. Contact us today with your questions or for a consultation to learn how we can help your organization thrive in 2019.

About the Author:

David King
David H. King, President & CEO of Alexander Haas, has lived in Atlanta nearly 35 years and been in the field of nonprofit development for more than 30 years. In his 27 years at Alexander Haas, David has provided counsel to hundreds of organizations in the areas of higher education, independent schools, hospitals, conservation, human services, churches and faith-based organizations.

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