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Small Nonprofit "No-No's"

1. I understand why small nonprofits sell candy bars. It’s to raise money. Same with pancake breakfasts, etc. Think about this, though:

  • what if you sell that $1.00 candy bar to someone with the ability to give you a $1,000?

  • selling products doesn’t promote what your mission is supposed to be- transforming lives (in one way or another).

  • the time intensive nature of having to gather volunteers to sell the products is counter productive–those volunteers, if properly trained, could be asking for gifts.

2. Special events do have a place in your development efforts. But they should not be the focal point of your efforts. What’s that you say? You raise $100,000 via your special events and a holiday appeal? That’s great. It really is. But consider this: your special events took a lot of staff and volunteer time and left money on the table. If you look at the bottom line of your special events, you’d know that if you added in salaries of staff to the expenses, the numbers would tell a sad story that wouldn’t add up to that $100,000 I just mentioned. Just asking: would the volunteers be happy if they saw the same bottom line?

3. The online giving “no-no.” Online appeals may be words or even have a video component. Both are great ways to tell a story, but, it’s not face-to-face fundraising.

  • If you want to raise a little bit of money, appeal online.

  • If you want to raise more money, use direct mail.

  • If you want to raise a lot more money, do it face-to-face.

4. Boring people is the quickest way to get them to close their checkbooks. Most nonprofits have brochures and/or websites that describe mission, who is served, statistics that summarize the need, and the services offered. Let’s have a reality check here, shall we? You don’t and won’t raise money by boring people and descriptions of mission and programs and statistics bore people. People give because and when they are moved and you move them with stories of lives impacted by the work of your nonprofit.

Allow me to use a quote I saw recently that perfectly puts this into perspective: “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” (Mother Theresa)

5. It’s really a terrible waste of time and talent if you haven’t taught your volunteers how to ask for a gift. There is a skill involved, but we have found that many volunteers, when they understand the potential impact of asking, jump at the chance.

Are those enough “no-no’s” or would you care to offer more? We’d love to hear about them.

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