Better Not More

Getting your fundraising program to deliver the ongoing revenue your organization needs to fulfill its important mission is often about focusing on better rather than more.

As we work to generate the much-needed revenue we need, we often get lost in the rush to simply do more of what we’re already doing. That probably gives us some results, but at what cost?

Take the example of two social services agencies in the same community. The first depends almost wholly upon event-based revenue. With an annual blow out, highly touted in the local press an attended by a local who’s who, they raise about $400K each year.   The second uses a person-to-person direct solicitation and never holds a revenue-generating event.

With a constituency that is only one-fourth the size of the organization that depends upon the event, the nonprofit that uses only direct asks raises $1.5 million each year for programs. No media fanfare, no blow out extravaganza, no celebrity parade.

When you factor the respective costs of these two approaches, with events, on average, costing at least $0.50 per dollar raised, the organization with the event, netted about $200K to apply toward the cost of critical programs and services. The organization that used direct asks, on the other hand, came away with about $1.47 million with an average costing rate of $0.18 per dollar raised.

So why do we continue to rely on what we currently do?   Because we are already doing it. It’s that simple. This is certainly not a unique fundraising idea—doing the same thing over and over.

Why do we get stuck? The effort, the uncertainty and the time required for something different, although not monetized, is usually what deters us from looking beyond what we already do. And we know how anything that even might present a risk to status-quo revenue is often avoided like the plague.

The organization that relies upon events, has been trying to launch a capital campaign for much needed facilities for a decade. The nonprofit that quietly uses direct asks completed two successful eight-figure campaigns during the same period.

And yet, the organization that focuses on events—including fun runs, galas and celebrity events continues to add even more in the hopes that somehow, someway, the numbers will scale.

Hmm. Think better rather than more. That’s a unique fundraising idea.

Principle 8 of The Eight Principles™ is Invest, Integrate and Evaluate™. Strive always to do better and once in a while think about “more.”

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