How to Make Sure You Raise Money When You Ask

Are you doing a lot of fundraising but still not making the kind of money you want? Maybe it’s because you’re focused on asking for money instead of asking to meet mission. 

Keep Your Fundraising Focus on Squarely Your Agency’s Mission

Fundraising is not about getting money. Fundraising is about implementing and expanding mission. It is about how your nonprofit makes the world a better place, how implementation of your agency’s mission improves the human condition. It is your fulfillment of mission that motivates donors to give. The money follows the mission. If you focus on getting the money over meeting the mission, you will eventually fail. Again and again, I have seen nonprofits thrive because of their strict adherence to mission in their fundraising programs. And others fail because they started putting the money first.  

For example, I once encountered a nonprofit whose mission was to strengthen families and communities by understanding and building on experiences of trauma. They did a lot of work with youth involved in the child welfare system. When money became tight, they started going after child placement grants. The goal of the child placement grants were to help the state get youth out of the child welfare system and reunify them with their families of origin whenever possible. They really didn’t have much to do building skills to deal with trauma. The agency went for the grant and got it. Yes, they had the grant money. But now their other donors were confused as to what the mission was and what the dedication of the agency was to it. Donations declined and soon they were not able to meet their overhead expenses. A short time after. their fundraiser was laid off. Only the absolutely necessary program staff and a skeleton administrative crew the hours they were covered for by grants. Eventually the executive director was replaced, the board splitting because of the decision. The next executive director didn’t stay long because of the dysfunction. The one after that is still rebuilding the organization.

Compare that to another community nonprofit who also worked with at risk youth. Their mission was to empower the youth they worked with to realize their worth, make their own decisions about the trajectory of their lives, and to advocate on their own behalf. This agency also considered going after the child placement grant. For about a minute. They decided not to go for the money because is didn’t fit their mission. No, they didn’t get the money. But their other fundraising efforts continued to grow, raising much more money over the long term. Community support for the organization increased, they continued to grow, increasing their mission impact, which attracted more donors. Which allowed them to grow. Which attracted more donors. And they grew again. And the cycle continued.

Always, always, always stick to your mission. For tips on how to promote mission while fundraising, read  To Bring in the Money, Be a Mission Hawk.

Assess Your Organization’s Mission Strength

For the best fundraising results, periodically evaluate your nonprofit’s implementation of mission throughout your agency. Ask each department questions like:

  • How do you define mission success?
  • How do you measure mission success?
  • What are the key factors that lead to your department’s sustained mission existence?
  • What data do you gather to support your claims of organizational success?
  • What processes are in place to collect that data?

Once you have clear answers, you will have good idea of how to focus organizational activities to meet the most mission. You will know where your leaks are regarding mission fulfillment and plug them. Particularly in your fundraising department. You will see how much mission your fundraising endeavors meet, thus how much you are motivating your donors to give. For tips on how to integrate mission into your fundraising endeavors, see In Pursuit of Both Mission and Money.

Next Steps

A focus on mission is just one part of raising more money. To raise the most money, it is also important to identify other fundraising strengths and gaps, empower your board, mobilize your staff, and excite your community.

To learn what your nonprofit can do to move ahead, schedule a complementary 30-minute discovery session with me. During our time together, we will clarify the fundraising issues your nonprofit is facing, explore possible solutions, and develop a plan of action.

When you make your appointment, you will be asked a few brief questions about your situation so that I am best prepared to help you. I look forward to our conversation!  

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