A good fundraiser may or may not perform well for you because many factors that are out of their control influence their results. For example, community interest in your mission—there may or may not be millions of people out there who are interested in supporting your nonprofit’s mission.
Which is one reason why before conducting a capital campaign, you perform a feasibility study. I know that you think your nonprofit’s mission is of the utmost importance, and once people hear about all the good your agency does, they will want to support you. It doesn’t work that way, though. All nonprofits have important missions and can cite good work. You need to stand out from the crowd.
And you stand out in the crowd through your messaging and targeting who you want to reach with those messages. Because resources are scarce, you don’t just splash information about your nonprofit and what it does all over the place, trying to reach everyone. Because when you do that, you end up attracting very few donors at a very high cost. Instead, you send carefully crafted communications that meet the needs of the specific donor groups you want to support you.
In my book The Sustainable High ROI Fundraising System, we talk in more detail about how to get your community’s attention and financial support, including how to reach targeted donor groups, present and ensure a consistent brand, and formulate a unique marketing position statement.
Your agency history also affects how much money can be raised. For example, if you’ve struggled to raise twenty-five thousand dollars over the years, chances that you will raise a hundred thousand dollars this year are pretty slim. You j ust don’t have the infrastructure in place to raise all that money. You need to build first.
Have the policies, processes, and procedures in place that will help your fundraiser raise the amount of funds you hope for. Set reasonable expectations for performance and provide a culture where development professionals can thrive. Don’t leave the fundraising all up to the development staff. Take a team approach, building on your role as executive director.
The larger economy also affects how much is reasonable to raise. If a recession hits, chances are good that individual donations will decrease. If the stock market slides, foundation corpuses may not be worth as much, causing them to limit the amount of money they give out. If there are negative industry shifts within your business community, you may not get the corporate contributions you are used to. If the unemployment rate is high, tax receipts will probably suffer, leading to government budget cuts or reallocations. Any or all of your revenue streams are, to some extent, dependent on the economy.
This is one reason why you need a mix of revenue-generating channels and shouldn’t rely on just one. You want to spread your risk. And why you invest in income-producing assets. You strive to build your nonprofit’s assets, not only high positive net income. Because it is your assets that will carry you through when the economy tanks. You must build for wealth, as well as net income.
Because of all these outside influences, you may periodically conduct a thorough evaluation of your agency’s fundraising strengths and weaknesses to see how you can counteract any negative influences affecting your organization’s fundraising performance. We talk at length about assessing your fundraising strengths and gaps in Chapter Four of The Sustainable High ROI Fundraising System, including what to evaluate, when you should evaluate it, who should conduct the evaluation, and what to do with your results.
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