Fundraising – Two Challenges Non-Profits Must Overcome

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Adequate funding for non-profit organizations is a universal challenge!

Donations fuel the mission and vision…and major gifts are often the backbone of the annual budget. Yet, sadly, the majority of non-profits doing great work grapple with fundraising. And even ones that excel at fundraising could accomplish even more good with more dollars.

Why is this, and what can be done about it?

There are two glaring reasons non-profits and ministries struggle to grow their donations. One is the extreme under-supply of effective major gift officer types (MGO’s).

Admittedly it is a challenging role that takes a special person with a unique skill-set, combined with a healthy perspective about fundraising. But the rate of people leaving the profession has been steadily increasing (including from burnout and 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day). And this problem is made worse by the lack of potential replacements that want to go into fundraising. Have you met even one person who said their career aspiration was to become a fundraiser? Even the word is a major turn-off to people in and outside the industry.

A second major reason ministries struggle to grow donations is the frequent turnover of those most responsible for building & maintaining relationships with major donors. (The most often quoted average tenure for MGO’s is 18 months.)

The under-supply has created increased competition and a decade-long trend of salary inflation. This understandably contributes to ministry leaders and boards wanting to quickly see evidence for a break-even point and pending ROI for their investment. Yet even the best MGO’s need time to assimilate into their new organization, to learn to tell the story, and build external relationships or deepen existing ones. But how much time is enough…or too much?

Feeling the pressure to perform and bring in dollars, MGO’s often hedge their bets by putting out job-change feelers during their evaporating “honeymoon period,” only to receive a better offer before they have a chance to perform. And the cycle continues!

While the evidence for the under-supply and employee churn are undeniable, what can be done about it? Is there a solution? I believe there IS a solution. But doing the same things in the same ways is not a realistic remedy.

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