Fundraising Effectiveness: Activity vs Productivity
This article is originally published on Bristol Strategy Group which is a “knoweldge” partner of Your Funding Network.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.” If you’re trying to raise money the way you always have, then you’re just reinventing the same old wheel, or worse. It’s time to stop obsessing over the way you DO fundraising and start changing the way you MANAGE it. DOING fundraising is all about activity.. MANAGING fundraising is all about productivity: getting better results with the same or less effort.
There is really nothing new under the sun, but sometimes you have to stand in the shade to see what you’re missing. (Forgive me, I’m on a cliché kick today.) I read hundreds of posts, articles, and training offers about fundraising every week – ok, maybe it’s just dozens; it only seems like hundreds – and they always seem to rehash the same old stuff, like:
Cool ideas for events.
Writing effective thank-you letters.
Telling your story.
These are certainly useful skills. If you don’t know how to write a thank-you note or tell your story I beg you to learn. But are these really the solutions you need? Programs like these are about activity. I don’t think our sector suffers so much from activity problems. It suffers from RESULTS problems. Some examples:
Donor retention rates. Donor retention rates are the RESULT of your strategies for communications and stewardship. If you haven’t defined the level of retention you’re seeking, it hardly matters which activities you trot out.
Staff Turnover.Development officers only last about 16 months, barely enough time to find (a) the bathroom and (b) the gift acceptance policy. Desirable levels of staff turnover (.e. LOW) are the RESULT of thoughtful recruitment, clear performance expectation, and effective methods for coaching your team.
Upgrading current investors. The ability to upgrade giving levels is the RESULT of thoughtful strategies for acquisition and retention, combined with good prospect research and consistent stewardship.
Fundraising team engagement.This phenomenon is the RESULT of clear performance expectations, access to good prospect research, and effective coaching support. The lack of these things leads to something undesirable: high levels of Ask Reluctance.
Adequate, predictable cash flow. This is a truly strategic issue, the RESULT of careful management, good record keeping, and insightful reporting. What’s the flip side? Inadequate, insufficient, unpredictable cash flow. Boo, ugh.
According to our research, plus insights from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project and Giving USA reports, fundraising organizations suffer much more from lack of productivity than they do from lack of activity.