The Most Common Fundraising Mistakes …and How Not to Make Them

Common Fundraising MistakesIn the past, we have touched on overcoming anxieties when confronted with the opportunity to share the joy of giving with a prospective donor on a face-to-face basis. We are anxious, mostly because we are afraid that we will make a mistake. Think about that for a moment! What is the worst thing that you can imagine might happen? The prospect will say, “No!” That’s no reason to be so afraid that you do not ask for the gift!

Today, I want to address what I have learned are among the twenty most common fundraising mistakes people are likely to make and to offer simple strategies on how to avoid them. In this way, you might identify problems that you have had or of which you are afraid. Perhaps, then you will be more successful when you are face-to-face with your next major gift prospect.

Mistake #1: Not Being Obsessed

You must maintain a commitment to results every moment you are at work; you should use every tool at your disposal and implement new ideas quickly.

Mistake #2: Not Listening to the Prospect

When you are with a prospect, never interrupt. Get the prospect to talk. Respond by delivering key facts to the prospect. Isolate problems that the prospect presents, and send the right message, both verbally and nonverbally: “I am here to help you.”

Mistake #3: Not Empathizing with the Prospect

You should always try to see the other person’s perspective; remember that you are not going to be thought of as the most important item on the day’s agenda. Develop respect for the prospect’s time.

Mistake #4: Seeing the Prospect as an Adversary

You have to strive to get the prospect to work with you; do not approach the meeting from a confrontational mindset. The prospect should be considered an ally, someone you want to have play on your team?

Mistake #5: Getting Distracted

Concentrate throughout your meeting; maintain eye contact; do not become disoriented by confusing or negative remarks from the prospect.

Mistake #6: Not Taking Notes

You can establish control of the encounter and reinforce the prospect’s desire to offer information when you write key facts on a note pad. It is also easier to reconstruct a memo of the meeting when you have your notes to refer to later.

Mistake #7: Failing to Follow Up

You should write personal thank-you notes at key points in the development cycle.

Mistake #8: Not Keeping in Contact with Past Donors

Remember that someone who has already given may be your best prospect for another–and possibly increased–gift.

Mistake #9: Not Taking the Prospect’s Point of View

When talking with the prospect, isolate the benefits of making the gift not only for the agency but also for the prospect and highlight them.

Mistake #10: Not Taking Pride in Your Work

You should stand behind your organization with pride; talk frequently with others about what you do for your organization. When you can no longer take pride in your work and/or the organization, it is time to take a closer look at what is causing this lack of enthusiasm. Is it the organization or you that is changing? Are you satisfied with the direction of the change? Is it time to look for work in a different organization? If you do not live the dream, it will be hard to convince others to feel it.

Mistake #11: Trying to Convince, Rather Than Convey

You can demonstrate in a compelling way how a gift can address relevant concerns. You should never apply “high pressure” tactics that ignore the needs of the prospect.

Mistake #12: Underestimating the Prospect’s Intelligence

Strive to act as a conveyor, not a lecturer, of information; work with the prospect to identify problems and find workable solutions.

Mistake #13: Not Keeping Up to Date

Do not assume that, once a gift has closed, you need no longer attempt to learn about the issues facing the donor. The agreement to give should be but the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial relationship

Mistake #14: Rushing the “Sale”

Let the development cycle progress at the pace that’s most appropriate for the prospect. Be patient. You will always do better by waiting for the prospect to be ready, than by forcing a false sense of urgency upon the solicitation.

Mistake #15: Not Using People Proof

Build credibility by highlighting past successes with other donors.

Mistake #16: Humbling Yourself

Operate from the assumption that you bring to the table a specific set of skills and a level of knowledge from which the other person can benefit. Work with the prospect as a partner. Do not comport yourself as a supplicant.

Mistake #17: Taking Rejection Personally

Try to develop resilience and self-assurance when confronting rejection; remember that hearing a “no” answer may be the only way to get to a “yes” answer. “No,” often means, “No, not yet.”

Mistake #18: Not Assuming Responsibility

When faced with a “no” answer, consider asking the prospect where you have gone wrong, or what mistakes you might have made in the presentation.

Mistake #19: Underestimating the Importance of Prospecting

Develop good prospecting skills, and regularly schedule time to find new potenial donors.

Mistake #20: Focusing on Negatives

You should approach obstacles from a positive frame of mind; avoid negative habits such as complaining and never, never gossip.

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Note: this post was originally published in 2004