Check out this amazing article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy on how the nonprofit agenda is being set.

Things can get a little hairy for a nonprofit when fundraising revenue is down. If we think about this from the perspective of a for profit company, usually the company might look at a number of things, below are just a few:

1.   Why aren't our customers buying our product? Are we still relevant to their needs? Is the product flawed or viewed as flawed?
2.   Do we have some new competitor that’s doing what we are - only better - and customers are buying their product instead? 
3.   Is our marketing on track? Are we reaching out target audience? Is our message clear, crisp and compelling and delivered through the right medium?
4.   Are we making it easy for customers to buy?
5.   Do we have the right people in the right roles?

Unfortunately in nonprofit we go right to number 5 and fire the development director. Then we find someone new. The new person has a great resume, great references and we think they can do the job. We love them. We revere them. We hire them and put them to work and go back to our “real” jobs.

And this happens every year or eighteen months or two years and on it goes.

What’s with the high turnover? Are we really that bad at hiring development directors? Or are they all bad?

The problem is we don’t ever stop and figure out what the problem really is. It could be that there are several other nonprofits doing exactly what we are doing, only better. It could be that our messaging is stale and not reaching the right people. Or it could really be that the Development Director isn’t right for the job.

But we need to stop and figure out what the problem really is before we solve it. Just firing people because we don’t think they are any good is not really going to get us anywhere, except we’ll spend a lot of unnecessary money and time that could have been put toward finding the real problem and solving it, and then raising some money. 

1. Whose responsibility is it to raise money? 
a. It is the Development Director’s job
b. The Development Director and CEO
c. Development Director, CEO and Board working as a team
d. None of the above

2. What’s the best way to raise some fast cash?
a. Hold an event, preferably a dinner, lunch or reception at someone’s house
b. Get on Ellen or have another celebrity endorse the agency/get mentioned on a TV show
c.  Ask a large donor, with whom you have a very good relationship, for a gift to tide the organization over during a tough time
d. Write a really good pitch letter and send it to as many people/companies/foundations as possible
e. Other

3. The most important factor in fundraising is quantity. You just have to ask enough people and you’ll eventually get a yes.
a. Yes
b. No

4. People, companies and foundations give because they feel passionately about your mission.
a. True
b. False

Answer Key
1.Answer is d. All board and staff are responsible in some way for ensuring the success of the fundraising activity, including the program team. The Development Director leads and facilitates, but everyone has a role to play. 

2. Answer is e. This is a trick question. There are no quick fixes in fundraising. It takes time to research, plan, cultivate and secure funds. While some of these activities might work, there needs to be an overall fundraising strategy that ties back to the agency’s budget and goals.

3. Definitely b. It is critical to research donors and approach those who have a strategic fit with your mission.

4. Again – b. Foundations, corporations and individuals give for all kinds of reasons. Our job is to figure out why each donor gives and then tailor a cultivation strategy based on that knowledge.