Put fundraising where it belongs: Firmly entrenched at the center of your nonprofit

“Fundraising is a practitioner’s craft. It requires the intuition of the artist and inquisitiveness of the scientist,” says The Nonprofit Fundraising Solution author Laurence Pagnoni. He adds there is no one-size-fits-all method of fundraising; every organization has a unique mission and strategy for supporting its mission.

What’s the common denominator among successful fundraising programs?

While every revenue-generating program is unique, Pagnoni firmly establishes the common denominator between every thriving fundraising effort: Organizational development and successful fundraising are inextricably linked. He asserts, “Your organization will do better by seeing itself as a multifaceted entity with fundraising entrenched firmly at its center. Why? Because the barriers to better fundraising performance are, so often, the same obstacles to organizational growth.”

Pagnoni’s book focuses on this premise and strengthens the organizational connection with tactical strategies for improving your advanced fundraising efforts in constituency building, face-to-face cultivation, challenge gifts and other tools, year-end giving, social media, leadership councils, corporate giving and major gift campaigns.

Pagnoni defines three aspects of organizational culture that directly affect fundraising:

Dominant source of revenue vs. multiple revenue streams: If a culture is not open to diversifying its revenue streams, it cannot possibly get to the next level.

Inward or outward focus: Inwardly focused organizations manage their programs with little concern for the surrounding community. Outwardly focused organizations concentrate on marketing, advertising, branding and other types of community outreach. Either extreme can become dangerous, in that the organization either if inwardly focused, loses touch with the community and other fundraising opportunities or if outwardly focused, loses touch with the social problem it is addressing as it works solely on its image.

Capacity of an organization to revisit its fundamental assumptions: These assumptions can relate to streams of revenue, inward/outward focus or anything that relates to moving forward.

We asked Pagnoni in our author interview about how to begin the culture conversation with leadership in order to facilitate better fundraising:

CausePlanet: What’s the best way for a fundraiser to motivate her organizational leadership to consider overhauling culture as a precursor to meeting revenue goals?

Pagnoni: At the end of the day, there is nothing anyone can do to motivate someone else. The people in question must choose to motivate themselves. Recently a trustee told me, “I don’t think the board wants the organizational transformation you’re describing. They are fine with it the way it is.” “So be it,” I said, “but please realize the unintentional consequences of that position.” In this case, it was predictable that only modest fundraising increases would occur, nothing near their potential. It was my job as their fundraising counsel to show them the bar, but it was their job to be motivated to achieve it.

CausePlanet: Which organizational circumstances present the best opportunities for fundraisers to prompt a discussion about changing the culture?

Pagnoni: When a CEO leaves, that’s an opportunity for a self-reflection assessment. Or, perhaps when a new development committee chairperson comes on. Most healthy organizations have some sort of annual planning process within which this conversation can occur. Peter Drucker once cautioned that company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got. So as you can see, there’s a spectrum to live on—from changing culture, to modifying it, to accepting it as it is, to shaking the dust and leaving it behind.

Pagnoni’s discussion about the importance of culture for successful fundraising is a refreshing and helpful section in part one of this book. Part two carries its own weight with numerous proven strategies and tactics to upgrade your new or existing plan. I found this book to be an innovative balance of big picture organizational matters like the connection between culture and fundraising and prescriptive guidance on how to implement a variety of revenue-generating programs.

Join us next week when I’ll share Pagnoni’s year-end giving appeal ideas. It’s not too early (or late) to work these concepts into your plan.

See also:

The Ask: How to Ask for Support for Your Nonprofit Cause, Creative Project or Business Venture

The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand: Motivating Donors to Give, Give Happily, and Keep on Giving

Fundraising the SMART Way™: Predictable, Consistent Income Growth for Your Charity + Website

Image credits: Amacom books, therainmaker.blog.com, nonprofitchangeagents.com

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