By Leyna Bernstein
Fable 1: We hire a development director to do our fundraising for us.
Fact: Success in fundraising comes from building a shared responsibility for cultivating and stewarding donors throughout the organization. The board and the executive director share accountability with the chief development officer. The job of your development director is to create the organization’s fundraising plan and oversee its implementation, not to make all of your asks. For this role, planning, coaching, managing and mentoring are more important tasks than solicitation.
Fable 2: Our fundraising priority should be growing our donor base.
Fact: Keeping and upgrading an existing donor is easier than acquiring a new one. Donors who give to you year after year can also be friend raisers and ambassadors for your organization. Most organizations with a reasonable number of donors neglect to invest enough time and resources in donor stewardship.
Fable 3: We will hire a fundraiser who will bring his donor rolodex with him.
Fact: Really? Do you give your money to the fundraiser, or to the cause? Ethical fundraisers are not going to “bring their donors with them”. While fundraisers may have existing relationships that can open some doors, and while having a fundraiser with exceptional relational skills is
critical, it is your cause and impact that will attract investment.
Fable 4: A track-record of big asks is an indicator of ability to be a development director.
Fact: Executive Directors and board members get in trouble when they hire major gifts officers and expect them to manage a department and build infrastructure. Many accomplished major gifts fundraisers are specialists and outstanding individual contributors. They are not necessarily suited to running a department and managing systems.
Fable 5: We need to be on Facebook and Twitter
Fact: Your fundraising tactics need to match your donors and constituents. Yes, you should be thinking about attracting next generation donors, but not at the expense of your current base. Nonprofits with limited fundraising budgets should focus efforts where they will have the most results. Often, fundraisers are spread too thin to be highly effective. A 3-person team trying to do annual fund, events, major gifts, planned giving, institutional giving, and online giving plus social media is likely to do a mediocre job with many of these programs.
Fable 6: The best fundraisers are high energy, charismatic cheerleaders.
Fact: Great fundraisers come in all types of packages. If I had one wish from the fairy godmother of recruiters, it would be to remove the equation of “charisma” with effectiveness in fundraising. Some of the most successful and effective fundraisers are quiet, thoughtful listeners who probably stage managed the high school play as opposed to playing the leading role.
Fable 7: We can’t fundraise because we don’t know any rich people.
Fact: You can raise a lot of money for your cause without hanging out with tech titans and blue bloods. Raising six and seven figure gifts from individuals is one fundraising tactic among many. Countless organizations fund their great work through the ongoing support of many donors of modest means.
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