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The Three Biggest Fundraising Mistakes You're Making and How to Fix Them

Hey, nonprofit superstars! Today, I’d like to discuss a subject near and dear to my heart: overcoming your fundraising fears. Or, more specifically, fixing the hurdles that can trip you up on your way to making the world a better place. 

I've seen it all, and trust me, even the most well-intentioned efforts can sometimes miss the mark. So, let's dive into the three big “oops” you might be making and, of course, how you can turn those pitfalls into opportunities.

Mistake #1: The Planning Problem

You wouldn’t set sail without a map (or at least a GPS), right? However, I see so many organizations venturing into the fundraising seas without any direction – that is, no clear plan, budget, or goals. This route usually leads to poor results and missed opportunities. It’s like trying to bake a cake without a recipe – you might end up with something edible, but it’s not going to be as great as it could have been.

Fix It:  Take a breather from the daily grind. Set aside some quiet time – even if it’s just an hour a day for a week – to map out your fundraising strategy for the rest of the year. Understand your financial needs and work backward to plan your campaigns accordingly. 

In other words, if you need to raise $400,000, then figure out what campaigns, grants, and donations you will need to achieve that goal, as well as when and how they will happen. Remember, developing a plan isn’t just busy work – it’s the blueprint for your fundraising success.

Mistake #2: The Fear of Asking

Be honest—is your organization just a once-a-year asker? Do you save all your donation solicitation for the holiday season? I get it. You don’t want to seem too pushy. But here’s why that is a poor strategy. By not asking enough, you’re leaving resources on the table that could make a significant difference for your cause. You are also sending your donors a message that you don’t need funding for the rest of the year. Remember, donors give because you ask!

Fix It: Shake off your fear and worry about asking, and sprinkle in a couple more campaigns throughout the year. These campaigns don’t have to be marathons like year-end. They can be short sprints – quick, focused, and tied to a specific need. It’s about creating more touchpoints with your supporters, not overwhelming them.

Mistake #3:  The Forgotten Treasure

Ah, donor relations, the backbone of sustained fundraising success and also the most neglected part of many organizations' fundraising strategies. Neglecting nurturing your donors is like forgetting to water your plants – you can’t expect growth without caring for the roots. Keeping your supporters in the loop, making them feel valued and informed, isn’t just nice – it’s necessary.

Fix It: Review your current thank you communications and update them as needed. Add in a mission story that shows how the donor made a difference with their support. Also, plan a monthly "donor touch.” From fun emails to insightful newsletters, let your donors know how their contributions impact your mission every month (or at least every other month!). Make them feel like the VIPs they are.

The mistakes above? I know them all too well because they are the same ones I made when I was a “newbie” development director and executive director. As I learned from fundraising experts, I became more comfortable asking, became a pro at planning, and started weaving donor relations into our strategy.

The results? Our team boosted our fundraising income by a whopping 300% in three years! And I’ve seen the magic happen with other organizations, too. As a current fundraising expert, I’ve worked with many small and mid-size organizations that were making the same mistakes but, with guidance and coaching, have knocked their fundraising goals out of the park, raising up to 50+% more than expected!

It’s time to step out of planning paralysis, face the fear of asking, and find ways to flourish in your relationship with your donors. It’s not just about avoiding mistakes — it’s about embracing a strategy that takes your fundraising to the next level.

Feeling inspired but not sure where to start? Let’s chat. You can sign up for a free 30-minute discovery call at Together, we can ensure your fundraising efforts are nothing short of phenomenal. Let’s make some fundraising magic happen!

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