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success guaranteed.

We guarantee you'll
raise more in your first
year or your money back.

Terms and conditions apply

3 Truths All Development Pros Should Remember for Fundraising Success

Avoid common mistakes that can lead to poor fundraising results—and possibly cost you your job! Watch my on-demand webinar where I share 7 Reasons Fundraising with Spreadsheets Got Me Fired early in my career. Watch it now!

A few weeks ago I shared my sad-but-true confession about how relying on my instinct early in my fundraising career (instead of data in a well-maintained donor management system) led to lackluster donation results and ended with my termination. Ouch.

Fortunately I’ve learned a lot since then and am happy to share a few simple truths that will save you from the same mistakes in your nonprofit fundraising role.

You can’t know all the answers, but you should know some questions.

Let’s assume you are more self-aware, deferential, and mature than I once was. If you are, you already know you can’t have all the answers but you should know how to effectively ask the questions that will help you succeed in your development role. Here are a few questions you should ask to ensure your organization is committed to fundraising success, instead of simply offloading grants, events, and thank-you letters to a new desk:

  • After you’ve been on the job for at least 30 days, do you see the executive director and board increasing or decreasing their time commitment to fundraising?
  • In addition to salary for the position, what expenses in the current operating budget can be allocated to fundraising? What type of expenses do you feel are/not necessary?
  • How were the fundraising goals in the current operating budget created? Are they based upon what’s needed to balance the budget or on what has historically been raised?

You can’t credibly say “yes” or “no” if you’re not operating from a plan.

Well-meaning board members always have ideas to raise money. You know they won’t work, but they may not understand that.  Sure, full-page ads in the Sunday newspaper asking readers for just $1, proof-by-pictures in the society section of local periodicals of people in tuxes at a gala raising over $1 million, or creating a crowdfunding page seem like silly ideas when put in their time-to-result context, but you need to understand the origin of the suggestions:  your board and your boss don’t see a plan guiding your activities, so they are making suggestions that are borne for a lack of understanding of what they can do to help, help you, or worse yet, desperation for results. With that in mind, you need a plan to create focus, foster transparency, and inspire confidence. If you are simply describing how many grants you wrote or how many letters were stuffed and sent each month, you’re only inviting more questions.


You can’t approach relationships with donors as a peer or friend.

Despite the effort you exude (and even the recognition you might deserve when making the metric or hitting the goal) you must always remember:  you didn’t do it, your donors did. You are not the one that holds the microphone, but instead, you are the one that hands it to the donor as they step into the spotlight. As fundraisers, we are the help, not the headlines. Our work is in service to the mission of the organization and as such, our job is to creatively and directly connect as many new and existing donors to it. Just because donors like you, does not mean they see you as their peer or friend. Instead, we simply enable their aspirations for the fulfillment of your nonprofit’s mission to be realized.

In this free on-demand webinar, I share how these principles—along with the right data and essential tools—will lead you to better fundraising results, more donors, and success in your development career. Watch now to learn 7 Reasons Fundraising with Spreadsheets Got Me Fired and discover how you can raise the money you need to make your budget—and beyondWatch it now!

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