Effective fundraising isn’t just about how much money you raise. It’s also about how you raise it. How can your organization apply principles of strategic fundraising?

As our team prepares for the upcoming Development Intensive (DI), I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes some organizations’ fundraising more successful than others. We’ve worked with hundreds of organizations that want to assess and improve their financing, at all phases of the lifecycle. We’ve read as much research as we can find about what science says works best. And we’ve been there—doing this kind of work ourselves.

All too often, we rely on outdated assumptions about what “works” in fundraising or stick with the status quo. However, Joining Vision and Action supports a growing movement to be much more thoughtful and analytical when developing your strategic fundraising approach. This involved how to select the best fundraising strategies for your organization. While the pillars of effective financing may seem numerous, I’ve been most interested in what may seem like instinct to those of us in the field: STRATEGY. This means having a clear sense of the organization’s direction and a clear sense of financing that direction. The Chronicle of Philanthropy backs this gut feeling up with research in its article, Killing Sacred Cows. [1]

The organizations that embrace this concept of strategic fundraising are changing what they do to finance their work, dropping long-time events, skipping grants, shrinking memberships or saying “no, thanks” to donors. Sounds hard, right? It is, because change is hard. The roadblocks are plenty:

  • Lack of strategic direction at the organizational level and/or missing clear sense of defined priorities and needs—not knowing or being confident in what you want to do and what you do best
  • Limited cash on hand
  • Short-term vision and impatience
  • Sentimentality, fear of the unknown and uncertainty
  • High turnover in development/fundraising team
  • “Raising awareness” as false measurement of loose concept; fundraising is ultimately about raising money
  • “More as better” philosophy versus the importance of quality for the measurement of return on investment

As you plan for the year, we hope you’ll join us for Development Intensive. Among a cohort of your development or striving development peers, we’ll discuss strategic fundraising in much more detail and collectively plan some cow-tipping.

[1] This section is a collective summary of JVA’s experience in this area, and it also includes information from: The Chronicle of Philanthropy (March 2016). Killing Sacred Cows.

NOTE: This blog was originally published in 2016 and is Part 1 of a three-part series (see Part 2 and Part 3) authored by former JVA team member Christy Bergman.