If the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, why is my organization still dry?

Have you heard the news? The long drought in giving brought on by the Great Recession is over. Happy days are here again for America’s nonprofits. Or at least happier days.

noticed_while_celebrating_12572Okay, so the 4.9 increase in overall giving that nonprofit software and services provider Blackbaud announced in its 2013 Charitable Giving Report isn’t as much of an increase as many boards and CEOs routinely (and foolishly) build into organizational budgets. But the 2013 results are a welcome turn in the right direction.

In case you’re wondering where Blackbaud gets its information, here’s the company’s description of the annual report.

The Charitable Giving Report is derived from The Blackbaud Index and includes overall giving data from 4,129 nonprofit organizations, representing $12.5 billion in total fundraising from 2013. The Report also includes online giving data from 3,359 nonprofits, representing $1.7 billion in online fundraising from 2013. It can bring you valuable fundraising insights to help you create a successful 2014.

To that last sentence from the folks at Blackbaud, I add a maybe and an if.

Maybe, because fundraising results, like rain, can be spotty. While some nonprofits these days are getting soaked, others continue in drought. News of a 4.9 increase in overall giving isn’t much comfort to organizations on the dry end of the bell curve. The percentage sounds puny to organizations harvesting from well-watered fields.

If, because there’s more to success in fundraising than the economy.


Organizations that are experiencing an uptick in giving have at least three things in common. If you want to succeed with fundraising, you need:

1. An elevator speech that inspires. Fundraisers who understand their work as ministry don’t just talk about the organization and its needs. Organizations on the growth side of the giving curve use words (and pictures) that capture imaginations and hearts. Leaders in these places has mastered the art of thinking, speaking, and describing like a giver, not an asker.

2. A development program that’s funded and staffed for growth. A fundraising team needs a satisfactory budget to develop and keep up effective strategies and systems. As the saying goes, it takes money to raise money – for staff salaries, technology, and systems.  I guarantee, even without digging into the Blackbaud data, that the organizations meeting or exceeding the 4.9 increase are spending what’s needed to continue the upward tick.

3. A board that’s ready, able, and willing to lead the way in raising funds. It’s a perennial research finding that nonprofits where board members educate themselves to and involve themselves creating an exemplary development program, the organization does better. Writing in The Board Member’s Guide to Fund Raising, development guru Fisher Howe cautioned: “If the [organization] is having trouble raising money, don’t look at the development office, don’t look to the chief executive, first check out the board of trustees.” Restated positively, as the board performs, so does the fundraising program.

It’s impossible to take the maybe out of the economy.  But if you give attention to these three, greater success in fundraising is a certainty — in rainy times or drought. Grab your umbrella and prepare to dance.

If you’ve found this article helpful, you’ll want to read:

Say it in a tweet: summing up your organization in 140 characters or less

7 requisites for doing fundraising well

At long last, overhead expenses get some respect


What's your take on this topic?

%d bloggers like this: