When people become overwhelmed, they do one of two things. Some people freeze up, and get analysis paralysis. The sheer number of choices available to them prevents them from making any choice at all. I was not one of those people.
Some people, when they are overwhelmed with choices, try to do them all (or as many as humanly possible). That’s what I did – jump from one fundraising strategy to the next... implementing one new technology after the other... until I realised we simply couldn’t do everything. And nor should we, since not every tactic or product we tried worked.
It’s easy to fall into the trap
It’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly trying the “shiny new fundraising thing” that’s out there. Whether it’s a new mobile-giving app, a free crowdfunding site, a new idea for your development communications... they all offer the promise of new revenue to support your organisation’s mission and vision.
Sadly, as I found out the hard way, chasing the shiny new thing doesn’t lead to fundraising success. It leads to confusion, exhaustion and burnout. Clearly, there has to be a better way. Many products or strategies that are new (or new to you) will work for your non-profit. So you can’t stick your head in the sand. But you also can’t chase after every idea that comes across your desk.
I have found that the solution to the problem of the shiny new fundraising thing can be solved by implementing what I call “the 3 P’s.” They are:
First, you need to take a breather. If you’ve been chasing every new fundraising strategy and technology out there, now is the time to hit the pause button. Stop implementing anything new, stop reading ads in fundraising magazines looking for new products or books or ideas.
Instead, take inventory of all of the fundraising ideas and technologies you have pursued to date. Compile some hard data. Find out what has worked, and what hasn’t worked. Do you see any patterns? Have new individual fundraising programmes been working for you, but not crowdfunding? Did that mobile giving app you purchased knock your fundraising out of the park, while your new focus on grants didn’t go anywhere? What can you learn from your hits and misses that can help you make better plans going forward?
Once you have taken stock of your fundraising, it’s time to develop a plan. This could mean writing your organisation’s first fundraising plan, or simply revising the plan you already have based on what you have learned.
As you plan your fundraising activities, it is very important to focus on the basics. Remember, for 99% of non-profits, most of your money should be coming from individual donors. Those donors require personal communication, with major donors receiving in-person visits and asks from your fundraising team. If you’re not out doing fundraising meetings, you shouldn’t be launching a crowdfunding campaign. Cover the basics first, before you expand your horizons.
That being said, if you are covering the basics, I encourage you to include one or two new and innovative fundraising strategies into your plan for the coming year. Your non-profit shouldn’t stagnate, and testing new tactics and products is a great way to reach new audiences and develop new revenue streams.
Once you have your plan (including your one or two new ideas or products), stay focused in pursuing your plan. Don’t get side tracked. Don’t chase after any other shiny new things – you already have your one or two new things for the year. Focus on doing them well.
Then, at the end of the year, review the ideas you picked to see how well they worked. If they were successful, keep them. If not, discard them and try something else in the following year.Don’t get caught up in the chase for new fundraising dollars... carefully consider your options, make a plan, then relentlessly pursue it on behalf of your non-profit organisation.