I’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, but that success didn’t happen over night. I networked, read a lot of material, and experimented with different fundraising techniques. Over time I learned what worked and what didn’t.
The most effective technique I found was cultivating relationships. People don’t just give to organizations—they give to leaders they trust. I took time to get to know my donors, their philanthropic interests, and their passions. As I chronicle the lessons I’ve learned over the years—and my own experiences as a donor—here are three reasons I’ve found that donors stop giving.
Lack of vision. Donors want to know where you’re going. People will give small amounts to maintain the status quo. If you want five, six, and seven-figure gifts, then you have to paint the picture of where you’re headed. When I first started raising funds, my board chair told me, “Money follows vision.” Assuming it was a superstitious quote, I wrote it off at first. After a year, however, I realized what he meant. Cast a vision—make it as clear as a painting on a canvas—and people will give to support it.
Lack of transparency. Donors want to know how the funds are being spent. Is it for programs? Services? Salaries? Don’t keep it a secret. Your budget should show how every single penny was spent. If you spent more on one line item than what you’d originally planned, then you should be able to explain the variance. Showing where the funds are spent is also a great way to communicate the need for more contributions. When donors see the need—but also see that the funds are appropriated well—they will give.
Disengaged leadership. There’s nothing worse than seeing program staff work hard while the senior leadership is disengaged. The same can be said about the board of directors. Donors want to see a supportive board that is actively involved. Instead of viewing donors as check writers, view them as partners—co-laborers—in your work. Your leadership’s involvement sends a message. If the leaders aren’t involved, then why should the donors be?