With 20 years of fundraising experience, I have seen organizations make the same mistakes over and over again. Are you making these same mistakes?

The first mistake I see is too many organizations spending a bulk of their fundraising efforts on grant writing and seeking corporate donors/sponsors. They hear about, or have experienced, that one big check arriving to save the day. It seems to make sense to spend most of their time looking for the next big check. The problem with that theory is that 72% of all money given to charity comes from individuals (Giving USA 2014 Report). A great predictor of long term fundraising success is having a diversity of funding sources, including many individual donors who give small amounts, rather than dependence on one large grant that could be given to another organization next year.

I often hear nonprofit leaders (especially board members) asking how we can get money from corporations. They figure: big corporations = big money for nonprofits. Well, when you look at the big picture, that doesn’t prove true. Out of all the money given to charity in 2013, only 5% of it came from corporations AND over half of that percentage was actually given in-kind (products and services rather than cash). Yes, we do need to get corporations involved in our events. Yes, of course we need to have a grant program. But if you really want to increase your fundraising potential, you should spend the bulk of your fundraising time cultivating relationships with your individual donors.

Do you know who your top 25 donors are right now? Have you ever asked them why they donate to your organization? Do you know what is considered a major gift for your organization?

If your budget is currently too dependent on foundations and corporations, consider spending more time focusing on individual contributions. If you’re not sure how, give me a call. I would be happy to help.

The next big mistake I see nonprofits make is when they fail to ask their volunteers for a cash donation. More on that in my next blog post.