Chapter 4: Fundraisability
This next chapter will deal with the concept of ‘fundraisability.” This new term deals with an attempt to get at the core reasons of whether or not your nonprofit will be able to raise sufficient funds for its mission.
Competition for dollars is becoming fiercer and fiercer. What is more, is that the largest established nonprofits, understanding this dynamic, are increasing the resources dedicated to fundraising. For example, the 50 largest humanitarian nonprofits have doubled the resources spent on fundraising from 2006 to 2015. Such an increased dedication of resources to fundraising will only increase the competitive nature of securing funds and is illustrative of the reactions brought on by the changes in philanthropy I have chronicled throughout this book.
Using informal conversations with many Boards of Directors as a guide, it is quite clear that 99% of them feel that their organization should be able to raise sufficiently more money than their current amounts. What’s more, these same Board members almost exclusively look at the organization’s skill in fundraising as the principal reason for resource development success or failure, rather than readiness or capacity. Passion, zeal and love for a particular nonprofit can often blind Board members to the significant issues within the organization that are in fact the real reasons organizations are not as successful in fundraising as they would like. Often these reasons require a deeper, more critical look at the organization, from an objective standpoint that most Board members and senior managers have difficulty doing on their own. Nonetheless, it is absolutely crucial for your nonprofit to assess its own fundraisability; because if it does not, your nonprofit will continually be searching for the panacea of a stupendous fundraiser.
A primary reason that many nonprofits do not have the success they desire with regard to resource development is that they do not maintain a focus outside their organization and, more specifically, do not have a full understanding of how they are perceived by external stakeholders.
Most internal stakeholders (Board members, management, staff and volunteers) have an extremely positive view of the organization that they are serving. Nonetheless, this will always be a subjective opinion and is colored by their experience and passion for the work they are doing. Fully understanding your weaknesses, at least as they are seen by external stakeholders, is of paramount importance in increasing your fundraisability.
Blind spot: something that you do not understand at all, often because you are not willing to try
In order to overcome any “blind spots” you might have, your nonprofit will have to put a mechanism in place that both includes stakeholder feedback and is able to capture truthful critique. Without such feedback, there is very little chance that you’ll be able to overcome any “tragic flaws” that your organization might have, but does not fully realize.
Transformation Key: Internal Focus + Blind Spots = Poor Fundraising Results.
This feedback mechanism will need to move beyond the common evaluations that are handed out at the end of meetings and projects. Often the assessment pieces are rushed for time and do not get the full attention that they deserve in order to pull back objective feedback, especially critical opinion.
Assigning a group of dedicated volunteers to find different ways in which to gather this information is a useful strategy. Volunteers certainly can be more objective than staff. The best case scenario of course is to have a group that is somehow connected to gathering marketing data in their professional lives or at least enlisting a group with this expertise to train a cadre of volunteers performing this function. Clearly, if you assigned this task to a dedicated volunteer group, they might very well use their creativity to figure out ways in which to inexpensively collect objective information. The key of course, is making this part of your work, taking it seriously, dedicating the appropriate resources and to be open to honest and frank critique.
Past Success, Past Ideas - Many nonprofits have low fundraisability because they are living in the past. Past success and relying on the ideas behind this success should always be celebrated and recognized. In fact, giving credit and hailing an organization’s history is an underutilized strategy that is quite useful in maintaining morale and reinforcing camaraderie. Still, an organization, whether private or nonprofit, must know when to transition into a new way of doing things .