Donors make decisions every day about which nonprofits they will support and at what level. Principle 1 of the Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising® states “Donors are the Drivers.” I don’t think there are many that would take exception to that statement. And yet. . .
I live in Idaho a state blessed with both the magnificent scenery and recreation opportunities afforded by the Rocky Mountains and generous individuals. Indeed, the recent Chronicle of Philanthropy state-by-state report on philanthropy reveals that Idaho is the fifth most generous state in the Union measured in percentage of per-capita income.
Based on this reality, conventional wisdom would suppose that our charitable organizations are healthy and growing as they fulfill compelling missions. Unfortunately they are not. Too many nonprofit organizations in our state struggle to grow above a subsistence level.
Why? Because despite the generosity of Idahoans, a good deal of their philanthropy-at least half by some estimates-goes to organizations outside of the state. While nonprofits from outside our state engage Idahoans to give and ask for investments based upon a compelling mission and significant impact, our local nonprofits often prefer to sell stuff and at bargain basement prices. Transactional fundraising-auctions, galas, celebrity golf outings, bake sales-is all the rage. The results are predictable.
The explosion in online giving has only magnified this distinction. Space and distance have collapsed. Online appeals are increasingly sophisticated in their ability to focus their approach based upon specific characteristics and interests of the donor. Gone are the days when calling out members of the community to sell them another bauble or social event will sustain your organization.
The next time your charitable organization thinks the fast-track to critical operating cash is yet another transactional event or gimmick, take the initiative to redirect the traffic. Build your outreach based upon engagement not selling. Remember Principle 1 of The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising®, Donors are the Drivers
Larry C. Johnson