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Fundraising gets a bad wrap. Really. I hear fore-drawn conclusions and notions all the time about fundraising. Here are the top five misconceptions I hear from organizations and the people fundraising for them.
I’m taking money from them.
This is what I hear most often when someone is asking one-on-one for donations. It’s always said as if the person asking is stealing money from the potential donor. With this attitude, you are not successfully raising funds. Raising funds for your organization is not about taking money from people. It’s about connecting people with the means to make a difference with your cause that makes the difference.
The fundraiser has to understand that you are presenting donors the opportunity to give. That’s all. They decide if your cause aligns with their heart. By presenting the opportunity, you are helping them transform their lives. There was an intriguing article in the New York Times about the neuroscience of giving. Giving actually increases wealth and has an overall positive impact on the giver!
Giving also creates meaning. Put simply, people feel richer when they are making a difference. If you don’t give the donor the opportunity to give, you are actually “stealing” purpose from the donor’s life. Think of making the ask as presenting an opportunity to the donor that will make a mark and improve the world around you.
People don’t want to give their hard earned money to the cause.
Yes- to a point. People give to people, not the needs of the organization. Change your perspective to the donor’s needs. (See point one for those needs.) Organizations should be striving to fulfill the aspirations of donors.
Fundraising means fundraising events.
Events are a valuable part of your fundraising mix but they shouldn’t be the only fundraising activity. Just like marketing has an advertising mix (TV, radio, internet, and newspaper), fundraising has a fundraising mix aka sustainable fundraising. This mix should include an annual campaign, appeal letters, grants, estate (or legacy) planning, major gifts, and events. This mix should include no more than 30% of funding from one source because it is thought an organization can recoup a 30% loss but more than 30% put them in a vulnerable situation.
Before you take on an event, make sure you have the man power, time, and money to do an event right. Nothing hurts your bottom line (or your reputation) like an ill- executed event. Events help with awareness but donor acquisition is more costly than donor retention so be realistic with your event. For an event’s benefit to the organization to be maximized, a way to capture contact information is a must.
If you need funds and not as much awareness, my best advice is to look at your appeals and relationship with donors before adding one more event. I have personally seen appeals raise two to three times more than events with less organizational investment in time or money. A well done appeal letter and follow-up letter can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in the same amount of time (or less) as planning and putting on an event.
If really big money is what you want, it comes from relationships with donors hands down. Invest in thank you notes and phone calls and keeping donors informed of the difference their investment is making.
Fundraising is about money.
I think by now you realize money is a bi-product of what fundraising really is. Donors’ interests, an organization’s relationship with donors, and the organization’s connections with donors are what successful fundraising is about. Leverage them and your fundraising will be successful!
*For help with your fundraising mix, contact me! I would love to help!

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