Fundraising: It’s Not About the Money

That sounds silly, doesn’t it? Of course fundraising is about the money. But great fundraising is about so much more.

The Haas Foundation just released yet another must-read on the state of philanthropy. And here’s the punchline: Getting past the monomaniacal focus on dollars in many instances leads to more money.

The study, entitled Fundraising Bright Spots: Strategies And Inspiration From Social Change Organizations Raising Money From Individual Donors isolates the qualities shared by causes that are having outsized success at fundraising.

So what do the high flyers have in common? Four things:

They embrace fundraising as a core organizational activity. Too often we encounter organizations that treat the development staff like bounty hunters. “Go fetch me some donors.” The Bright Spots groups weaves fundraising into programmatic activity. Instead of fundraising as a necessary evil, it becomes a full partner in accomplishing the work.

“Fundraising is distributed broadly across staff, board and volunteers.” Some of the bright spots groups have no development director at all.

“Fundraising succeeds because of authentic relationships with donors.” I confess I am tired of clients asking what the ROI is on cultivation. It should be a given. While not entirely the point, for the record, authentic engagement appears to pay off nicely.

“Fundraising is characterized by persistence, discipline, and intentionality. Across the wide range of staff sizes and budgets of these organizations,” the report found, “one deceptively simple practice stands out: whatever system for cultivating and engaging their donors they’ve chosen, the Bright Spots work it with discipline and a commitment to continuous improvement.

The report builds on Haas’ previous landmark publications Underdeveloped and Beyond Fundraising: What Does It Mean To Build A Culture Of Philanthropy? All are extremely well-written, jammed with case studies and examples, and change the way you think about philanthropy. And I think we all agree philanthropy in America is way overdue for a big rethink.