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Before you celebrate your fundraising success, take a moment to get real: what did it really take to meet your goal? Did you jilt your staff and volunteers, burn bridges, and destroy relationships? Does a close look reveal the devastating consequences that a poorly managed campaign can spawn? Reflecting on the reality of your campaign – and not the press-release version – can be sobering. Here are some things that your reflections could reveal.

Low participation. Only a few, less than 10% of your team, did the work. The CEO did not participate as promised and mid-campaign left for another organization. The board, while enthusiastic and almost demanding a campaign, did not give in a meaningful way and did not participate in raising funds. The few staff on your team were overworked and unclear about what they were supposed to do. At times it seemed as if everyone was doing everything, but nothing was being accomplished. Staff departed and you were too busy to make a new hire. Even though your campaign was staff-driven: no fundraising volunteers had been recruited.  You had to put on your superwoman cape and work 32 hours a day. The morale of staff and volunteers sunk to an all-time low – some swore off their allegiance to your nonprofit. No one committed to ongoing fundraising and future campaigns.

Lack of planning. The campaign launched with a declaration from leadership that “we need more funding.” But no one committed to defining what exactly you were raising money for. Goals and priorities changed by the day, seemingly on a whim, and as a result your team gave up on trying to make the case. Without a day-to-day campaign manager, staff – and your few volunteers – pursued their goals without coordinating with others. There was a campaign plan, but no one used it, deciding instead to follow their instincts and do what they were most comfortable with. There was improvisation which sometimes was very successful, but too often the lack of understanding and coordination resulted in a lot of activity and no results. Without an unexpected windfall gift, there would have been no success!

Inadequate capacity and infrastructure. The campaign was launched knowing you had no capacity or infrastructure. With little or no research and no advance feedback on your proposed campaign your fundraising goals weren’t really a fit for your current donors and you didn’t know how to identify and cultivate new prospective donors. There was no budget and campaign costs went through the roof. Gifts were double and triple-counted. Vital data was never recorded and utilized as planned.

Fundraising can be expensive in so many ways. Our core belief: meeting your fundraising financial goal is only one aspect of success. Other goals include building and sustaining a team, engaging leadership, building relationships, keeping your cool, containing expenses, and uplifting everyone you come in contact with. It’s a tall order, but you’re up to it: your organization’s future depends on it.

Copyright 2024 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2024! Video and phone conferencing services are always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727.

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