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Some (belated) New Year fundraising resolutions

Now that the snow has finally gone, and some of us are still counting the cost of Christmas in both £s and lbs, as well as getting over the shock of being intimately reacquainted with the inside of the gym, lots of us will have made resolutions for 2011 that we still haven’t broken yet.
I’ve been thinking about what resolutions I would like to see in the fundraising world this year and have five basic suggestions.

1. Try something different (big or small)

One definition of madness I like is the one that says, “madness is when you keep doing the same things, over and over again, while expecting to get different results”.
We are in tricky times and money is tight and competition fierce. So while wild speculation on risky new activities may not be wise, running exactly the same fundraising programme as you did last year (4 mailings, 2 newsletters, a raffle, 3 events, a ball etc.) is no more likely to halt a decline in income nor yield that desired increase in income either. We all need to develop and expand our fundraising efforts in a way that is planned, considered, and (hopefully) innovative. To do otherwise, especially nowadays, is what might memorably be termed as “King Canute” fundraising. Therefore it makes sense to consider what you can do differently in 2011 that might bring a different (and hopefully better) outcome.

2. Have a genuine strategy for your online activity

There is an excellent blog called Brandcamp, and a particularly relevant piece here ( about the social media ghost town that many commercial organisations find themselves in where they are constantly advertising and pushing their social networks without having the regular activity (strategic or otherwise) to support it, thus creating a barren and unfulfilling experience for visitors.
Too many times the question “what is the key purpose of your website” is met with vague and woolly answers: “to attract people / to raise awareness / to publicise our work”. Ask yourself honestly if that is the case with you too, and if so, resolve to set some proper measurable objectives for your online strategy. And stick to them.


How to move from Fundraiser to CEO - by Bruce Tait. Upwards white arrow on blue background.

3. Do some research

As mentioned in detail in my blog just before Christmas, the only way you can test, prove and disprove assumptions and assertions about your donors is by asking them. This needn’t be expensive or time consuming, but I do think it needs to be done. Proof of the pudding is in the asking and while we ask often enough for money, we don’t ask often enough for opinion, feedback or even ideas from those we should be valuing the most – our supporters.

4. Concentrate more on retention

Just imagine what a ten per cent improvement in your retention rates would do to your bottom line, or a ten per cent improvement in reactivation of lapsed supporters? By concentrating more on those donors you have already you could save significant amounts of money and raise more money at a much better return on investment.

5. Use communications to support fundraising

As Stephen Pidgeon rather eloquently opined late in 2010, surely the primary purpose of the Communications function in most charities should be to support the raising of funds vis-à-vis the work of the fundraising department. If nothing else I would like 2011 to be the year where (often substantial) funds previously simply recorded as spent on “awareness raising” becomes exposed for its obvious inadequacies. Awareness of what, for who and why – by answering these questions surely more useful and genuine measures could be used to make this clearly critical function properly accountable both in terms of impact and support for raising money.
And of course, I wish you a happy, if belated, New Year and above all a prosperous one!