Are your systems sabotaging your school’s fundraising?

July 31, 2015 Marc A. Pitman

Every week I talk with people concerned that their development officers are under performing. Or not performing at all. I even get emails from people saying, “Help, I need to fire my fundraiser.”

Does this sound like your situation? Research shows you’re not alone.

The Latest Research on Fundraising Churn

I’ve been doing an ongoing study of nonprofit CEO’s and heads of school asking them what the top 3-5 biggest frustrations they have with their nonprofit fundraising. I often get answers like: I don’t know how to fundraise, and I don’t think my development person knows how to fundraise either.

Interestingly, CompassPoint released a research report called UnderDeveloped. They say 75% of respondents were frustrated with their boards’ lack of engagement. 25% of executive directors say they fired their last development director. And 50% of development directors wanted to quit – 40% weren’t even sure if they should stay in fundraising!

Systems Sabotaging Your School’s Fundraising

The UnderDeveloped report makes ten recommendations of areas to change. Some of the ones your school can put into place now are:

  • Changing the mentality of fundraising: Fundraising isn’t a “necessary evil.” Nor is it just the responsibility of the development office. Your school’s board and staff need to come to grips with their internal issues with money and keep them from sabotaging your ability to raise money to help students learn.
  • Board training needs to radically improve: Too often, we spend more time trying to get someone on our board than we do helping orient her to her new position. As a result, board members don’t make great decisions for the school, especially in fundraising! Providing a basic overview of the field of philanthropy settles board members nerves, and helps prevent them from pursuing fruitless “ice bucket challenge” copycats and messing up solid school fundraising plans.
  • Exercising fundraising leadership: Development directors need to stand up and make their schools know that fundraising is a profession. We’ve been researching this since World War II and know what works. We know that fundraising letters shouldn’t please English teachers, they should inspire action. We know that corporations aren’t the most generous donors. We need to share that with others in our school. Heads of school also need to step up and lead in fundraising. No school can be successful at fundraising for long if the head isn’t championing the effort. Even if it’s outside of your comfort area, donors want to hear from you. And they should.

Those are just three of the recommendations in the report. In a webinar called “The Crisis in Nonprofit Leadership,” I unpack more of the research and highlight six areas in your school’s fundraising that you can make changes in today. If you’re tired of lurching from fiscal year to fiscal year with sporadic, and disappointing, fundraising results, check out this training.

Blackbaud is offering it to you for free right here!

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