5 Fundraising Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Steven ShattuckAugust 22, 2017

5 Fundraising Mistakes and How to Avoid Them header image

Whether you forgot to call a friend on their birthday, ran late to a meeting, or called someone by the wrong name (for days), we all make mistakes – and sometimes they’re downright embarrassing.

But when it comes to nonprofit fundraising, making fundraising mistakes can have serious consequences for both your mission and donor engagement.

Mistakes are great to learn from. But what if you don’t know you’re making them? How will you ever learn?

We hope you’re not making this mistakes. But if you are, now you know. And we’ve got you covered on learning from them.

1. Forgetting to ask, “So what?”

One of the most common mistakes we see organizations make is soliciting donations without a specific purpose in mind. That’s precisely why planning an effective fundraising campaign is to important! Setting out to raise money without knowing exactly how that money is going to be used puts your fundraising efforts at a serious disadvantage. Take these two sample fundraising appeals:

“Please donate $10 to help prevent malaria in Africa.”

“Your donation of $10 will be used to buy a mosquito net for an African child. Children with a mosquito net around their bed are 70% less likely to be infected with malaria.”

Which appeal was stronger? The second has a much clearer pull to it. Both appeals were asking for the same amount, to create the same result. The second appeal, however, stated a plan of action with a resulting outcome. The more your constituents know about the impact of their donation, the more likely they are to become donors.

2. Only asking for money

Despite the addictive of watching episode after episode of Shark Tank, it’s not all about the money. Another common mistake in fundraising is only contacting donors for fundraising solicitations.

People donate to organizations they care about, but if the only communication they ever receive is fundraising-related, it can make donors feel like they’re the poor dad whose kids only talk to him when they want money.

Instead, invite your donors to be part of something – to take ownership of the great work you’re doing together. Create a strategic plan that includes a diverse array of communications to your donors. Break up fundraising appeals with thank-you notes, success stories, and organizational updates. Even letting them know about current events related to your mission keep your donors aware of how important the work you’re doing truly is. By varying communication to donors in this way, you encourage additional donor engagement, setting the stage for donations down the line.

3. Ignoring your data

If you read our blog, this is a bit of beating a dead horse. And you can lead a horse to water, but…well, you get it: bottom line, your data matters. This is one of the core tenants of who we are because we believe that your data tells a story and is the biggest factor in knowing your donors and capitalizing on their potential for your mission. When you understand what your data means and how it impacts your constituents you can plan events strategically placed in locations with a high density of donors. You can measure the success of online fundraising and social media campaigns to replicate and adjust for even more successful initiatives. You can clearly segment donors and know their giving history, preferences and patterns. It’s all there in the data!

Unfortunately, many nonprofits get so frustrated with confusing and clunky databases, they end up ignoring their data. It becomes too hard to understand what all the numbers say, or how to find the trend you’re looking for. This is why an easy-to-use software solution as your nonprofit CRM is vital.

4. Leaving out suggested donation amounts

This may not seem like a big deal, buuuuuuut it plays its part. Leaving out suggested donation amounts creates an extra step of work for your donor population.

Deciding how much to donate isn’t difficult, of course. But the truth is, the more decisions you make for your donors, the more likely they are to hit “submit” to an online donation.

It’s 2017. Most people read emails or browse the internet on-the-go. When they have to stop and think about how much they want to donate, they may just decide to put it off until later – and then never come back to it. When you include a suggested donation (or even two or three options), it’s a very simple and effective way to bypass decision paralysis, moving them right along to completing the transaction

5. Hiding the donate button

We’ve got to be honest: this is our biggest pet peeve. The easiest and most effective way to get more online donations is to create a big, bold, easy-to-find donate button on all of your site’s pages.

Your audience has literally hundreds of images fighting for their attention every minute. The last thing you want to do is make your donate button or donation page hard to find! That’s why we cringe when we see online fundraising emails link constituents to a nonprofit’s homepage instead of a donation page. Or when your donation page is hidden somewhere in the middle of your “About Us” section.

Keep it simple! Test out your donate buttons with someone who has never been through your online fundraising process. Ask them for honest feedback about how easy it was to give, and if there was anything that seemed overly confusing or complicated.

Becoming a step-master

While you shouldn’t master making mistakes, mastering the steps to avoid them would be a good idea. Tips? Get a tattoo of these 5 mistakes. Wait, wait: have your co-worker get a tattoo of these 5 things, so you can see it from where you sit. That’ll help for sure.

Or maybe just focus on one of the mistakes that really struck home. Honing in on one improvement at a time, and really making a switch, can sometimes help push you toward your goal.

Schedule a live demo with our partner Bloomerang, and we’ll show you how easy it is to create and automate reports, utilize online and offline fundraising tools, quickly integrate and access all your data, and ultimately create more time to engage your donors.

Filed Under:   Fundraising