“What’s keeping you from growing your nonprofit’s funding?”
That was the first question on a survey I conducted before I spoke at a workshop for nonprofit Executive Directors earlier this year. I wasn’t surprised by the answers — they were the same things I hear from leaders all over the country running big and small organizations.
Can you guess what the top answer was?
“Not enough time.”
I’ve been there. It’s a real Catch-22:
You need more help, staff, and resources to grow. But to get more help, staff, and resources, you need more donors and larger donations.
But you don’t have time to fundraise since you don’t have enough help, staff, and resources.
It’s a puzzle, and you won’t grow or combat nonprofit growth inhibitors until you solve it.
So time is a big challenge for a lot of nonprofit leaders. What was the second-most-common answer?
“Fear and discomfort.”
Does this ring true for you? Are you uncomfortable asking for donations? Does it seem scary? You’re not alone! I work with lots of Executive Directors whose dream is to grow large enough so that they can hire their first Development Director so that they can do a lot less of the fundraising. I hear you — fundraising is hard and takes work. Every. Single. Day.
But even if you’re very busy and hate asking, you have to raise funds to grow your organization. There’s no sneaky no-fundraising-required shortcut, but you can successfully eliminate these two big nonprofit growth inhibitors.
Operation: Time Protection
First, you’re going to need to turn normal nonprofit thinking upside-down. Very often, we treat our time like a free and endless resource. We don’t count it like the precious thing it actually is. Time is money. Every hour you spend fundraising has to yield the donations of a size you will feel and see in your bottom line.
Your time is not infinite, so you have to take steps to protect it. Here’s where you start:
✔ Say this out loud: “My time is the MOST VALUABLE resource of our organization.” Maybe write it on a post-it, and put it somewhere you’ll see it every day.
✔ Track your time for a few days. How are you spending it? Which of those activities bring in revenue?
✔ Restructure your day to align THE MAJORITY of your hours with the activities that will bring in THE MAJORITY of your revenue.
✔ Next, set aside one full day for fundraising. Block out your calendar. Ignore irrelevant emails (just for the day!), don’t take unnecessary phone calls, avoid scheduling meetings. Protect that day.
✔ On your fundraising day, focus ALL your time on relationships with single-source decision-makers and connectors.
“All right, I’ve set aside some fundraising time…but I’m still uncomfortable with fundraising!” I get it.
It makes sense that you won’t fundraise if you’re not sure what to do or how it works. Operating without a system is a little like flying without a net. It’s scary.
But you don’t have to fly without a net. You can remove the dread, fear, and general discomfort that many nonprofit leaders deal with in fundraising when you have the right systems for success and tools in hand.
When I work with clients, one of my most favorite moments to watch is that shift from dread to “Oh, I think I can actually do this!” Happens every time. It’s actually quite simple when you’re using a system, instead of winging it.
I recently had a client secure a first-time $10,000 gift using the system and tools we designed together. Now, how do you think that was for her confidence? #goodbyefear
There is a step-by-step path to this level of fundraising confidence. Your first step? Identify your top 20 donors along with what makes them tick. What do they value about your organization? Why are they giving? What questions do they have that might keep them from giving a gift?
Go deep in your understanding and serve that need. Serve the need in every interaction . . . all the way down to the thanking.
What about you? Are you ready to say goodbye to fear? What nonprofit growth inhibitors are you working through?
As part of Bloomerang’s Content Donation Program, $100 was donated to College Bound Opportunities.