20 symptoms of fundraising trouble

Published by Reinier Spruit on

change-sameThere are a lot of fundraisers out there who are in their comfort zone. They don’t like change; they might be afraid of change.

If you are doing everything right, the need for change is obviously less urgent. However, most of us are not doing everything right. So there is a big chance you can improve your fundraising.

And the only one stopping you is… well, eh… YOU!

How often did you say: “this is how we do things around here”? You might not have said it out loud, but I bet some of you were thinking it. And if you were not thinking it, I’m sure some of you did unconsciously.

The more of the following symptoms you recognize, the more you might be in very serious trouble…

  1. You will not review historic data and you follow your own instincts rather than testing.
  2. You will not meet up with fundraisers from other organizations.
  3. You will not engage in staff retreats to dissect and rebuild your program, brick by brick.
  4. You will not attend any conference, let alone listen to any other bright fundraiser.
  5. You will not engage your board members in any high value donor event.
  6. You will not hire great fundraisers, because you are afraid they’ll outsmart you in team meetings.
  7. You will not test, but if you do, you will consider your test results will be mostly inconclusive.
  8. You will not engage with donors.
  9. You will not know the latest developments in traditional, social or new media.
  10. You will not listen to or act on expert advice, in fact, you will feel criticized and will not discuss it any further.
  11. You will not start a fight with your communications colleagues who are holding your donor newsletter hostage.
  12. You will not have an analytical approach to evaluating your results, nor will you learn from best practice.
  13. You will not try to persuade your boss to get more budget and staff to support your plans.
  14. You will not be the one to blame when results are down, in fact, reasons for underperforming are all external.
  15. You will not excite your colleagues, au contraire, your downward spiral will infect others.
  16. You will not innovate, take a risk or simply re-think existing paradigms.
  17. You will not do, read or understand market research, in which competitors are outperforming you.
  18. You will not focus on the main KPIs that will drive your program towards more growth.
  19. You will not be able to seriously self-reflect.
  20. You will not have a long term vision or plan.

Time for ChangeUnfortunately you will not be held accountable, hence the fact you are still in your role and doing your same ‘ol same ‘ol fundraising.

I am sorry. You will not raise enough funds for your cause.

If you recognize these symptoms you better do something about it. Right now. Today.

(WARNING: This list is not exhaustive! There are much more symptoms! Which one can you add to the list in the comments below?)


Reinier Spruit

Reinier Spruit

Reinier is in love with fundraising since 2001. Ever since he's trying to improve his own fundraising skills and those of others. He's one of the original founders of 101fundraising. At the moment working with amazing clients through his one-man fundraising consultancy. Loves running and baseball.


Usha Menon · June 18, 2013 at 02:44

I can think of some more:
* You will not rejuvenate your board with with people who are able and willing to raise funds for your mission
* You will not set a budget for building and analyzing you supporter database
* you will not have a ‘community manager’ (staff and/ or volunteers) assigned to energize your social media channels because you believe ‘if you build it, they will come’
* you will operate from a ‘deficit mentality’ rather than one that believes that there are funds and people out there who are alighted/ inspired by you mission

Toby Bourke · June 24, 2013 at 08:54

Loving no. 11

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