5 Fundraising Mistakes and Missteps

Tim Ahern | July 29, 2016

Fundraising groups and nonprofits rely heavily on the money they raise through their fundraising efforts. Whether they use the money for a specific program or put it into the general fund, the funds an organization generates through their campaigns can make a big difference in the work they do. With the right fundraiser in place, an organization can further spread the word about its cause, and increase donations.

For many nonprofits, however, fundraising has always been a guessing game. They may have gathered ideas from other organizations or brainstormed different options at the beginning, but if they don’t measure the success of their fundraising campaigns, they may find that they’re continuing to run campaigns that don’t work. Here are a few common fundraising mistakes that nonprofit leaders and organizers should consider before their next drive.

1. Choosing the Wrong Product or Event

Nonprofits have a wide variety of options when choosing a fundraiser. This starts with whether they opt to have an event or sell products. The fundraiser should match the overall tone of the organization while also being of interest to the nonprofit’s typical supporters. A youth organization, for instance, will more likely have success with family-oriented product sales than a fancy dinner with the town’s wealthiest residents. This is just one reason why boy scout troops have had so much success running Christmas wreath campaigns. Christmas wreaths are something their supporters already want so making the ask isn’t too difficult.

2. Failure to Market

Many organizations make the mistake of assuming that everyone will be as excited about their great cause as they are. That may be true, but the biggest obstacle is a lack of knowledge. The responsibility falls to the organization’s leaders and volunteers to get the word out about the great work they’re doing, as well as the benefits the community at large will get from any money donated during the fundraiser. This means spending time and money on marketing, as well as networking within the local area to get the word out. Keep in mind that marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. There are simple ways to get the word out about your fundraisers.

3. Weak Leadership

An organization’s effectiveness is driven by its leadership. Without someone pulling everything together and motivating teams, a fundraiser won’t have the success it should. In many organizations, volunteers come and go each year but leadership remains in place, providing consistency from one year to the next. It’s important that a nonprofit have passionate leaders in place who measure results each year and use the information to create next year’s campaign.

4. Documenting Process

Fundraising teams and volunteers change frequently. For this reason, it’s vital that you keep a documented and organized plan for your fundraiser. One easy way to do this is to create a folder in Google Drive. Inside your folder, you can offer best practices, boiler-plate letters, timelines, effective marketing tactics, marketing flyers, expenses and more. That way, as your organization changes, your new volunteers can learn from the past and hit the ground running.

5. Limited Goal Setting

From the start, a fundraising group should set goals and strive to attain them. For best results, everyone should have access to a website or internal leaderboard that charts team members’ success throughout fundraising season. Participants will strive to improve their own results on the board, especially as they see their numbers creeping closer to the end goal. There’s nothing like a little good old competition. Leaders should also put people in place who are goal-oriented and self-motivated and regularly reward volunteers who excel.

With the right approach, nonprofits and fundraising groups can run campaigns that deliver year after year. By first understanding these common mistakes, leaders can create fundraisers that resonate with their supporters. Over time, their communities will begin looking forward to each year’s fundraising season, knowing the nonprofit will either have an event or product sale that everyone enjoys.