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Are you experiencing fundraising insanity?

“If you do what you’ve always done, then you’ll get what you’ve always got.”

I love that saying.

In the world of fundraising it means that if you keep doing things the same old way, you’ll keep getting the same old results.

I’m stunned by how many people are surprised when things don’t turn out differently.

When you send the same tired appeal letter year after year, you aren’t going to raise more money. If you hold the same mediocre event year after year, don’t expect an increase in response.

I was coaching a gala committee made up of Board members and volunteers recently.  They have a wonderful annual event and they’re very disappointed in the results they are getting.  They put over 400 people in the room and are raising just over $20,000.

Not good, says I.

So I asked them in detail about the event.  From what I gathered, they are telling their story, sharing client testimonials, and engaging people in their vision, but when it comes time to make the Ask, they are dropping the ball.

They are leaving it up to their guests to figure out if they should give and how much to give.  In other words, they are being a bit wishy-washy about asking people for money.

There’s a lesson here for everyone:  you MUST ask for a gift.

Don’t assume that people know how much you need or how much it costs to run your programs. Be bold and ask for a specific amount for a specific purpose.

For this particular group, I told them they need to let people know how much it costs them to provide service to 1 client for 1 year, and ask donors to sponsor a client.  And, I told them to include indirect costs when they calculated the costs per client per year.  (There was a bit of silence at this point.  Then they realized they don’t know what it costs them per client, which I told them was their first piece of homework.)

After many of the ideas I shared, committee members said “We know that.”

I tried to explain to them that knowing a thing and doing a thing are different.  It’s one thing to know you need to exercise every day, but it’s a whole different ball game to actually do it.  Your body will definitely reflect the difference in whether or not you take action on the things you know about exercise!

If the things you “know” aren’t working, then it’s time to do some self-reflection.  Are you implementing what you know?  If not, there’s the first place to make some changes.

If you’re someone who says “We tried that and it didn’t work” then it’s time to find some new ways of doing things.

Either way, you’ve got to get out of your rut and start thinking differently. New ways of thinking usually results in new action and new results.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. 

Don’t let fundraising drive you insane.  Change up what’s not working to what we know works and I guarantee you’ll see better results.

By | 2019-04-24T04:04:16+00:00 November 29th, 2010|Leadership, Real stories|0 Comments

About the Author:

Sandy shows Founders and leaders of small nonprofits how to fully fund their big vision so they can spend their time changing lives instead of worrying about money. She has helped dozens of small nonprofits go from “nickel-and-dime fundraising” to mastering donor-based fundraising, inspiring their donors to give often and give big.   Learn how to raise the money you need to fund your new nonprofit without begging, doing without, or paying out of your own pocket.   Click here to download our free ebook Fund Your Dream.

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  1. Gregg Pechmann November 29, 2010 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    I hear this all the time from people who refuse to suck it up and get the job done. “We tried it, but it didnt work…” Really, did you really try….I mean really, really bust your butt and do things that will produce different results.
    Great post Sandy

  2. Jeff Brunson November 29, 2010 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    Along with that insanity Sandy is confusion over what it means to evolve as both individuals and organizations. Richard Barrett says that evolution is not doing things differently, but doing different things. That is what I hear that you were trying to get your client to understand.

  3. Mary Ellen Miller November 29, 2010 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    Excellent post Sandy. My father was a professional fund raiser so I heard the motto “ask for the gift” from the time I was a child. Besides, people like to be asked! Thanks for the great reminder.

  4. Sue Painter November 29, 2010 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    Great story and great example of what happens when you don’t ask! Thanks for sharing the expertise.
    Sue Painter

  5. […] Read more from the original source: Is fundraising making you insane? […]

  6. KKB November 30, 2010 at 1:43 am - Reply

    Thanks for shaking it up, Sandy!

  7. […] View post: Is fundraising making you insane? […]

  8. […] Original post: Is fundraising making you insane? […]

  9. Linda Pucci November 30, 2010 at 9:28 am - Reply

    Great post, Sandy! Sometimes we get “stuck” in our old ways of doing things and we forget that we have to continue to grow and change along with the rest of the world. I remember learning about the concept of “asking for what you want” years ago, and remember learning that if you “ask for what you want” 100% of the time and get turned down 50% of the time, you still have a good return, especially if you have asked 100 times. If you only ask twice and get turned down 50% of the time, you only have succeeded one time. Whether in fund raising or other areas of our lives, we need to learn that it IS OK to ask for what we want.

    • Sandy December 1, 2010 at 11:06 am - Reply

      Love that Linda! Thanks!

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  11. Betsy Baker November 30, 2010 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    Sandy, nonprofits have to fully engage what they’re being taught to see results. I love how you compared it to exercise – we all know we need to but knowing this and doing it are two different things. Now, if you’ll excuse me I feel the need to go for my run right this minute! 🙂

  12. Melanie McGhee December 1, 2010 at 12:05 am - Reply

    This lesson also applies to relationships. It continually surprises me how many conflicts arise because a clear and direct request was not made. Your advice also calls me up short as I realize tht I’ve not asked people for testimonials. And as I head out for a mastermind retreat, I’ll be taking this advice to heart and get crystal clear about my requests.

    • Sandy December 1, 2010 at 11:03 am - Reply

      Yay! Glad I could make you think Melanie!

  13. Greg McRay, EA December 1, 2010 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    If you want results, you gotta do what it takes to get results. Osmosis doesn’t cut it! Good stuff, as always!

  14. Gayle L. Gifford, ACFRE December 2, 2010 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    Like you, I bump into so many organizations running events that simply don’t make a lot of money. I find that helping those organizations set bigger goals for the event, then helping them do the math (gotta love those gift pyramids) can at least point out to them clearly a path to raising more money.
    Then, as you so rightly pointed out, you simply have to ask for more. One simple but so overlooked action is just to tier the event tickets to ask for higher levels of support. And to sign up those bigger donors in advance.
    As you said, you’ve got to both have a good case and make the ask.

  15. Whitney Ferre December 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    Sandy–This is great information. I wanted to share that Creatively Fit tailors “Painting Races” for groups to use as fundraisers JUST LIKE they use running races, but this is all done online, easy and unlimited potential! I would love to provide more info. Cheers! Whitney

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