Be Fearless Fundraisers!

21/06/2012 at 10:09 Leave a comment


As promised in my last blog post, I am sharing my thoughts on being fearless about raising money. In light of the recent Giving USA annual report and Case Foundation call to arms Be Fearless, we don’t have time for incremental change – we need to bold, risk taking moves and be willing to take risks and learn from failure. I believe our donors want us to take the lead, be bold, even courageous in our work and with them.  This bold work will separate the wheat from the chaff – in organizations, Boards and donors. We owe it our organizations and our communities. Now is the time. Frankly it was time in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

I am a fan of fearlessness – BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals); learning from failure and taking risk. Horshin or kaizen – we need to make big, bold moves that make a big, bold difference. Based on Giving USA 2012 – what we are doing isn’t making change – we are barely treading water. Change and risk is tough – for everyone – staff, Board, volunteers and donors. Please see the Heath Brothers book Switch: How to make Change when Change is Hard.

Case Foundation has made this clarion call to Be Fearless. This post is based on their five calls to action:

  1. Make big bets and make history
  2. Experiment early and often
  3. Make failure matter
  4. Reach beyond your bubble
  5. Let urgency conquer fear

Here are my suggested BHAG’s, risk taking moves, bubble breaking, urgent work more than ever, learning from failure ideas based on the challenges so clearly detailed in Giving USA 2010, 2011 and most recent 2012 reports.

Giving USA 2012 Info: Adjusted for inflation – in the past 40 years, total giving increased only 2.6%. In addition, since 1971 the nonprofit sector has contributed ~2% to GDP – it has not changed in all these years. We need to be bold in our fundraising – even take some risks.

  • Get rid of your direct mail and telefundraising programs. Hire fundraisers who will, can, should go out and see current donors. Make a big bet. Take a risk.
  • Truly, significantly, consistently concentrate on maintaining or upgrading the donors you have. Let urgency conquer fear.
  • Follow Charity: Water fundraising method: Give, Raise, Influence. They know by getting donors to engage others they will raise more money. Be bold.
  • Review everything – case, mission, website, communications. Ask those outside your organization for their feedback. Is your message as clear as you think it is? Use new media! Effectively. Reach beyond your bubble.
  • Ask big, ask often – keep asking. Be bold, urgent and clear in your cultivation and solicitation. Ask donors to join your organization in making big bets and history. This is not about begging for money or pleading need – this is about asking donors to invest and stand with you in your commitment.
  • Ask donors to commit to your organization – exclusively. Let urgency conquer fear. What’s the “why” of your organization? (More on Simon Sinek in next blog) Clarify and share. What’s the worst they are going to say? No? Remember, if we don’t ask, donors don’t know what we need, how or why their donation is so important. AND if you don’t ask – another organization will.
  • In the current economy, we now know, organizations that re-committed to fundraising (ie didn’t fire their fundraisers) continued to raise more money. Make big bets and make history.
  • Create or expand your legacy club to include donors who don’t contribute using cash. Be proactive in conversations with donors about their ability to give, how and when. Flexibility in accepting gifts allows donors to continue to over longer pledge periods, use donations of stock, real estate or other assets may help them make their gift. Experiment early and often.
  • Find out if your donors have a donor advised fund or family foundation. Did they deposit some of their disposable income pre-recession in a donor advised fund (DAF)? Perhaps they set up a DAF years ago for a charitable tax deduction they needed then? Ask if they have a DAF or have considered making a gift through their DAF. Reach beyond your bubble. Let urgency conquer fear.

Giving USA 2012 Info: Giving through bequests rose 8.8% based on inflation-adjusted dollars.

Sometime in the past the nonprofit sector started asking for planned gifts and now those donors have died, may they rest in peace. Let us offer a collective and posthumously thank you for the legacy they planned before you passed. Talk about bold thinking!

  • SET UP YOUR PLANNED GIVING PROGRAM NOW in order to leave a legacy for your organization later. This program should include those who have established a bequest or charitable trust. In this new economy it may also include donors who are making a significant gift over time, through stock or other assets that will support your work in the future.
  • Think differently about planned giving. Think about donors who can and will plan to make a gift that leaves a legacy. This is beyond traditional wills and trusts. Make big bets and make history.

More on being fearless fundraisers and nonprofit managers in future posts. Let the rest of 2012 be the year of living and doing boldly. Giving USA has shown, current efforts aren’t enough.

Entry filed under: Fundraising, Nonprofit fundraising, Nonprofit Research, Resources You Can Use!. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Be Fearless and Giving USA Best Friends Animal Society LA and Pergo Video

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