Attention Fundraisers: Stop Shooting Yourself in the Foot | npENGAGE

Attention Fundraisers: Stop Shooting Yourself in the Foot

By on Dec 17, 2014


Golden Opportunities

When it comes to fundraising, we all know that there is no “one size fits all” solution, schedule or strategy. Each nonprofit has to consider its donor profile, budget, programming, specific needs and other factors that lead to the investment that makes fundraising as successful as possible.

But there are some opportunities that seem like “no brainers”—missing out on them just doesn’t make sense.

One of those happened recently—Giving Tuesday. For charities in the United States and (new in 2014) the United Kingdom, this was a natural day to be in front of your donors, making a compelling case for receiving a gift. After all, media talked about it and other nonprofits “promoted” it by sending emails with offers to celebrate Giving Tuesday by giving to them.

If your nonprofit wasn’t one of those asking for money on Giving Tuesday, why not? Sending an email is fairly inexpensive. The messaging is basic: It’s Giving Tuesday so please give a gift to us! It’s a no-brainer.

But some of you missed it. And sorry—you won’t get that same opportunity again for 364 more days. It’s like year-end; it comes around once a year, we all know when it is, and if we miss it, we squander an opportunity to raise funds (great or small) to help accomplish our organization’s mission.

What keeps every nonprofit from taking advantage of those opportunities when fundraising is just a bit easier because of factors that help compel people to give?

Sometimes good is good enough.

I like my work to be perfect, but that needs to be filtered through a dose of reality. A short text email with a few sentences of compelling copy reminding people to give today is going to be more successful than the graphically fantastic email that never gets sent. Yes, we want to “maintain the integrity of our brand.” But that’s not an excuse for missing golden opportunities. I’m not advocating for sloppy work. I’m advocating for standards that are not so complex that the work never gets done and a dose of flexibility. There has to be balance.

The process can’t be the tail that wags the dog.

If you have such a complicated procedure that no one can send an email or a mailing or post to social media in an emergency or when time is short, you have a problem. If there’s only one person who knows how to send out an email (and he or she isn’t fanatical about documentation), you have a problem. Having a process that is so well documented that almost anyone can do it is not a luxury; it’s essential. “She was on vacation” or “he had the flu” is not an excuse for missing fundraising opportunities.


Dr. Seuss asked, “How did it get late so soon?” I may not be the Cat in the Hat, but I can certainly relate to that question.  Lost opportunities are often triggered by too little time. As tough as it is, as fundraisers we have to start owning our time. Participatory decision making can be the curse of working at a nonprofit organization, but a two-hour meeting to choose the new copier is a poor excuse for missing out on a fundraising opportunity. Saying “no” is hard to do, but we have to. The fundraising we don’t get done will never be recouped; that’s how important our work is.

What surprised me on Giving Tuesday? The organizations that I support that didn’t send me an email inviting me to choose them for a gift on Giving Tuesday.

Don’t let another “no-brainer” opportunity pass by.

Vow today to settle for “good” if need be, double- and triple cross-train and insist on taking the time to document important processes in a user-friendly manner, and practice saying “no” so you are ready when the next time-draining request comes up that will keep you from doing what really matters for the future of your organization.

You’re a fundraiser. So let nothing stop you from the ethical raising of funds.


Pamela Barden, CFRE, is a Direct Response Fundraising Strategist and Copywriter. With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations.  She specializes in writing fundraising copy, P.R. materials and instructional articles, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy.

As Vice President and Group Director at Russ Reid (2006–2009), she was responsible for the management of the largest single account for this marketing agency specializing in nonprofit fundraising.  Her nonprofit experience includes leading the fundraising work for International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (2001–2006); World Relief Corporation (1988–2001) and Youth for Christ/USA (1979–1988).

Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), an Advisory Panel Member for Rogare: The Fundraising Think Tank of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at Plymouth University, winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from the DMA, a Distinguished Instructor for UCLA Extension, adjunct instructor at University of La Verne and a weekly columnist for “Today in Fundraising.”

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