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Without a doubt, the toughest challenge to overcome in fundraising is to:

Stop doing what doesn’t work and start doing what does work!

We get locked into “what we’ve always done,” whether it’s a fundraising mailing, event or other activity.  We think we can’t afford to give up the donations that activity brings in each year.

Often we don’t consider opportunity costs.  Would a different strategy generate more donations for a similar investment of time and effort?  Instead we hang on to the activity, never considering that we can choose to use our time and resources in a more effective way.

In short, the toughest challenge to overcome is our entrenched thinking and behavior!

For example, we know major gift fundraising is the least expensive, most effective way to raise money.

Yet, in a brand new 2017 Major Gifts Fundraising Benchmark Study respondents said “not having enough staff or time in their own day” is the primary challenge impeding their major gift fundraising.

Here’s how the top three challenges line up:

  • Not having enough staff or time in their own day (57%)
  • Board member involvement (47%)
  • Identifying gift opportunities to match with donor interests (41%)

I can make the case that “not having enough staff or time” also impedes board member involvement in fundraising and identifying gift opportunities.

So how do we solve this problem?

I don’t believe anyone has figured out how to “manufacture” more time.  We all have only 24-hours a day.

The answer is very simple and very tough at the same time:

We must change our behavior;

We must choose to use our time and resources differently!

Start by:

  • Figuring out how to get routine and administrative tasks off of the ED/CEO’s desk to free him or her up to meet with high capacity donors

    • How available is your ED/CEO to spend time with top donors? If he or she is not available, it is unlikely significant gifts will be secured.
    • What relationship strengthening could your ED/CEO accomplish with donors and board members if administrative support is in place?
  • Taking a hard, analytical look at the effectiveness of your organization’s current fundraising program

    • Is it time to conduct a development audit? An audit leaves no stone unturned in assessing current fundraising effectiveness and providing recommendations to ensure success.
    • Is it time to invest in development staff and infrastructure in order to expand fundraising capacity? We know “you have to spend money to make money.”
    • Do development staff have proper administrative support to allow them to fulfill their full professional potential?

Be smart and brave enough to drop activities, some which may be long-standing, that don’t work.

Yes, there may be board members, staff and volunteers who are reticent to let go of a favorite activity.  Analysis of your organization’s fundraising effectiveness along with research, such as the Benchmark Study, can educate committed stakeholders about the best strategies for increasing donations and expanding your organization’s mission impact.

However, the only way we can “manufacture” time is to change our priorities and intentionally shift what we choose to do.  Again, this is the toughest challenge . . . but it’s the most effective way to overcome these major gift fundraising challenges!

  • What do you need to stop doing so you can start doing what works?

  • What can you prioritize differently so you can choose to use your time differently?

  • What can you do today to take steps in that direction?

Read the full 2017 Major Gifts Fundraising Benchmark Study report, a collaborative effort of Association of Philanthropic Counsel (APC), one of its member firms (Melissa S. Brown & Associates), and one of the APC sponsors, MarketSmart.  Rylander Associates has been a member of APC since 2000.

Email me at carole@rylanderassociates.com or find out more about our services at www.rylanderassociates.com