Excellence in Fundraising Requires Proper Nonprofit Strategy


by Jeff Jowdy

Nonprofit strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a goal.

Strategy is essential for fundraising success.

No… proper strategy is imperative for you to fulfill your fundraising potential.

“Hope is not a strategy,” said legendary football coach Vince Lombardi.

Too many people in fundraising still wander aimlessly, focusing on low-yield tasks that keep them busy without the foundation of a strong strategy.

This is really about excellence in fundraising. Again, from Coach Lombardi: “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”

One of the reasons why giving seems stuck in America, hovering at around at 2.1% of GDP, frankly, is a lack of excellence in the profession. It is allowing well-meaning CEOs and board members to impede on what we know are proven best practices and the right strategy. It is development professionals who accept less than excellence.

We recently encountered a prospective client-a CEO who had only been involved in one campaign in his career. The campaign languished forever, not hitting its goal for years. In the campaign’s implementation, just about everything was done wrong. But for some reason, even with that failed approach, the CEO felt more comfortable following that strategy-or, in this case, lack of strategy.

Strategy is about what to do and what not to do, and it is about when to do it.

It is essential that your fundraising strategy is proper:

  • It must be based in research and analysis; otherwise, it is cookie-cutter.
  • It must be comprehensive for your campaign or initiative and then applied in specific circumstances; for example, a cultivation visit or a gift request.

When we talk about fulfilling fundraising potential, we are really talking about fundraising with excellence. This means:

  • Achieving or overachieving your goal
  • Hitting the goal within the desired timeframe
  • Providing donors an incredible giving experience
  • Enabling volunteers to be successful and have fun

Proper strategy makes a huge difference in fundraising. You can’t get it from a template, a podcast or seminar. It is applying successful principles to specific circumstances (determined by research and analysis), implementing the strategy properly and using it to guide each new step-i.e. each encounter with a volunteer, prospective donor or donor.

Utilize proper strategy, and you will fulfill your fundraising potential!

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