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5 Mistakes That Lead to Ineffective Fundraising

Falling Sign

Over the course of any week, I speak to dozens of nonprofit organizations. As with any industry or sector, there are a handful of common issues that plague small nonprofits in particular when it comes to their fundraising efforts. Even though these issues are pervasive, they can be easily remedied. Here are five common mistakes that lead to ineffective fundraising:

Falling Sign1. Over-reliance on events

Don’t get me wrong, special fundraising events can be very effective in fundraising and introducing potential donors to your nonprofit. However, if the event itself is the sole focus in your efforts, then you aren’t being as effective as you can be.

I was talking with an organization that has one huge event a year where they receive 80% of their fundraising dollars. I asked how they build relationships with the event attendees and what the retention rate of those that give again is.


“We don’t keep the event list. We start over every year. Donor retention is not important to us.”


2. Lack of use in new technology

From an modern website CMSs to emerging social networks to cloud-based productivity tools, there are a plethora of new and helpful technologies that are being ignored by many nonprofits.

One organization I was chatting with does have an effective website, but has to hand re-enter information in their donor database. Another organization has information on one machine in the office and none of the fundraisers in the field have access to real-time donor information. Very few nonprofits have branched beyond Facebook for their social media efforts.

Investment in technology has a huge upside on effective fundraising.

3. Lack of communication strategy

Poor donor communication is the number one reason a donor does not give a second gift. Nonprofits commonly struggle with developing an effective communication strategy.

An organization I was talking with last week only sends out a year end statement acknowledging a donated gift, which also serves as the only gift acknowledgment to the donor.

No immediate thank you.

No follow up telling the donor how their gift is making a difference.

No follow up to start building a stronger relationship focusing on donor retention.

Please don’t make the mistake of not realizing the importance of having a very detailed donor communication strategy.

4. Lack of an easy-to-use donor database

Your donor data and relationship profiles are vital to your success.

One group I talked with has such a huge and complicated system only one person know how to use it or get information out of it. One group mentioned that they have no idea what their donors have given to or what they are passionate about.

Having that information at your fingertips allows you to make an ask of the right person, at the right time, for the right amount and for the right project.

5. Lack of investment in your growth

Many NPOs are afraid or lack the desire to invest and grow.

In my calls, I hear often “we can’t afford ____.”

I love asking the question “where will you be one year from now?” I fear that many NPOs don’t look that far out. Sadly, many will be struggling with the same lack of funding a year from now because the fear the investment it takes to grow.

I love the nonprofit world and many of my daily conversations are with organizations that are just killing it! I hope listing these five mistakes that I encounter can help you grow as you want to grow!

If you’re in the market for a new donor database or fundraising CRM, be sure to download our free Buyer’s Guide to Fundraising Software >>

The Buyer's Guide to Fundraising Software

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