“Why does the world need yet another book on fundraising?”
I was asked this question by a friend who is a long-serving senior staff member of a community foundation. Throwing caution to the wind, I answered her question with another: “Do all the nonprofits in your community raise the money they need?” After a slight pause, she answered, “No, they don’t.”
The sad reality is that too many nonprofits are unable to raise the funds they need to maintain current programs and services let alone serve all the others in need. Yes, some nonprofits have staggering fundraising success. But most often they are large, well-established organizations with years of accumulated fundraising experience and abundant fundraising expertise and resources — organizations like large private universities and hospitals.
But most nonprofits are not large (according to Urban Institute’s Nonprofit Almanac 2012, almost half of all public charities have annual expenses under $100,000) and have limited, sometimes very limited, fundraising experience and even more limited current fundraising expertise and resources. Yet it is the smaller nonprofits that are typically the most dependent on contributed funds, as are those they serve, and that have the hardest time raising needed funds.
There can be many reasons why smaller nonprofits have limited fundraising success. Based on my experience working with community-based nonprofits, one major reason has become painfully apparent to me: Large, established nonprofits can 1.) easily attract community members to board service who have experience with fundraising as well as personal resources and access to others with discretionary resources, and 2.) afford chief executives with years of fundraising experience. In contrast, smaller nonprofits have access to different pools of prospective board members and chief executives. Their board leaders are likely to be less experienced in fundraising and less informed about what it takes to do it well.
Many who are new to nonprofit board service think that fundraising is about writing a big check and asking their friends to do the same. That perception, that misunderstanding, could well be the single most significant reason why smaller nonprofits struggle to raise the funds they need.
Consider an alternative, where fundraising efforts are based on the following:
- A clear understanding of what is required to be effective in raising money so that whatever fundraising efforts are authorized are well-conceived.
- Carefully prepared fundraising plans, strategies, and goals supported by necessary capabilities that reflect the unique needs and circumstances of the nonprofit, resulting in a well-planned program.
- Competent and consistent implementation of the plan by those qualified for the tasks, resulting in a well-executed program.
Fundraising based on those three components is almost always highly effective in achieving the desired results, and is what I refer to as “informed fundraising.”
Informed Fundraising: An Introduction & Guide is not another “how to” book. Rather, it is designed to provide nonprofit decision-makers associated with small nonprofits with the information they need to make informed decisions when presented with proposed fundraising plans and programs. It provides them with the understanding needed to ensure that those plans and programs have been carefully prepared and will be well executed.