Fundraising mistakes

Many not-for-profit groups struggle to match their income with their expectations. This might be due to over-expectations, but, in most cases, it will be because of the fundraising mistakes they are making.

1. Being scared of ‘the ask’

People can get shy when it comes to asking for money, but if you believe that your organisation’s work is both important and valuable it should be easy for you to tell others about it – and then ask them for a donation.

If an organisation has motivated you to get involved, then there's a high chance it will do the same to others – but they can't get involved in sharing the passion if you don't give them an opportunity to do so.

And it should go without saying – if you don’t ask for donations, you won’t receive any.

2. Having non-donating board members

The board will need to lead the way when it comes to donations – even if it’s just a small donation from each board member. If a board isn’t fully committed to the giving process it will be hard to expect anyone else to be.

Don’t be afraid to approach the board for donations. Rich or poor, large or small donations – all board members should give.

3. Poor or non-existent record keeping

If you don't keep records of all contact made with potential givers (donors, clients, customers, audiences, correspondents, suppliers) you're practically throwing money away.

People who have been in contact with your group are much more likely to donate to you than those who have never been involved with your group.

Keeping a database of past givers helps you to know whether they've given in the past, how much they gave and how often they give, and tailor your communications with them accordingly.

4. Skipping homework

It doesn’t take much more than access to the internet to help improve your fundraising expertise.

With so many resources available to help your group further develop its fundraising skills there should be no excuse for you to lag behind and stick to the same old boring fundraisers.

Have you checked out all of the free online help sheets on Funding Centre? Have you looked over our other community resources at Have you checked out the material available on the internet, your local library, or in the bookshop?

5. Lacking goals

Being a not-for-profit group without any fundraising goals is like being a hiker without a map– you might move forward, but you have no idea where you’ll end up or how long it’ll take you to get there.

Successful fundraising relies on tight monitoring at all stages, which involves having fixed goals and strategies that can be assessed, achieved, or modified.

6. Sending out one-size-fits-all requests

Sending out a one-size-fits-all request for donations can be a recipe for a fundraising flop. Identify the particular details and interests of whoever you’re approaching (see point three above) and home in on them.

For instance, a business and an individual will need separate donation requests. Personalise your pitches to the prospective donors who will receive them. Concentrate on the areas where their values and yours meet.

7. Not applying for grants

Around $80 billion in grants is given out each year in Australia – but so many groups miss out on getting their share.

Identify six to seven key grants each year and get the dates on your calendar so you don’t miss the submission deadline.

Also spend some quality time doing your homework in the Funding Centre’s Grants Help Centre.

8. Not building relationships

Once a supporter makes a donation to your group it is important to build a relationship with them – if you don’t treat your donors well they’ll either end the relationship as a one-off donor, or they’ll find someone else to support.

As a rule, the bigger the donor, the more fuss you should make over them. By building significant, lasting relationships, a supporter can go from being a once-off donor to someone who makes multiple pledges year after year.

Building this relationship is a matter of not only valuing their contribution, but reinforcing how their donations are used for the benefit of the community – and what else you could do with more resources.

9. Not embracing change

Having the same event year after year can be effective, but if it is failing to grow in income or participants it should be time to re-evaluate.

If an event has become stagnant don’t be scared to reinvigorate it with some slight changes, or try something completely different to help build some excitement around the event.

10. Forgetting your manners

Manners will get you everywhere in the world.

Your donors are not being forced to give you anything, so when they do you’d better thank them. Send your thank you emails or letters promptly, and where possible ensure that they are individually specific, and preferably hand signed.

For big donations send a hand-written note and think about inviting the donor to an event – this might encourage them to give another donation in the future.

No matter how much was given, make the donor feel good about their donation. Make them believe that they have entered into a rewarding relationship with a group that appreciates them.

Say thank you because it's the right thing to do, and because donors who feel valued are much more likely to donate again.

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