You Need to *Not* Do Some Things in 2019

All Strategy is Sacrifice

This month we’re posting about the fundraising strategies and tactics that worked well in 2018.

Here’s a piece of hard-won advice: if you want to raise more this year, you need to actively decide not to do some of the things you’ve done in previous years.

Here’s this strategy in a catchy quote:

All strategy is sacrifice.

And here’s how I explain this in a simple decision tree:

  1. You have limited resources (time and money)
  2. You have to decide what to do with your time and money
  3. Which means you also have to decide what not to do with your time and money.

Smaller nonprofits, in my experience, are bad at deciding what not to do. Specifically…

Smaller Nonprofits Have a Hard Time Stopping Doing Things

They have a harder time cutting projects and strategies that are no longer the highest use of limited resources.

I suspect this is mostly because of the collaborative nature of fundraising and communications in small- to medium-sized nonprofits. There’s always somebody who values a thing you’ve done in the past. Here are some recognizable examples:

  • You keep mailing printed annual reports to all donors because some board member or major donor rep says that they simply must have it.
  • You keep doing an event that loses money each year (not to mention the investment of time) because a major donor loves it and has made it their pet project.
  • You write, format and send out an e-newsletter every month because “we have to tell people what we’ve been doing” even though 1 out of 20 people actually open the email.

Sound familiar? And in a collaborative environment, it’s hard to tell stakeholders that their project is going to be cut.

It’s especially hard when the fundraising that’s actually raising the money (and keeping your donors) isn’t well-measured. Because when no one can point to a line on a spreadsheet and say, “Look, THIS is where we raise most of our money, we should do more of this” … then all projects are equal.

And when all projects are equal, the stakeholder with the loudest voice / most passion / highest ranking wins.

Your Nonprofit Needs to Make Hard Choices

Here’s my advice in a nutshell:

Measure and track what really produces your fundraising net revenue.

Then relentlessly focus your resources on doing more of those things.

Be willing to endure some interpersonal conflict in exchange for raising more money and doing more good.

There’s no silver bullet here. For most nonprofits it’s about making hard choices, measuring, and being “sold out” to doing more good – instead of doing what someone thinks is best.

If This Is Your Organization and You Want to Change…

We have one piece of advice for you: measure your fundraising inputs and outputs.

If you don’t already know, figure out how much everything costs and how much everything raises. That’s your preparation for starting the hard conversations.

Data doesn’t always win, but it sure helps. And the practice of gathering and evaluating data is a skill that is incredibly valuable in the nonprofit world.

Final Days of the Sale

Our sale ends in a few days! You can raise more money in 2019, and have more time to focus on important projects, by having Better Fundraising create your appeals, e-appeals and newsletters.

And you can save thousands of dollars.

Visit this page to learn more and fill out a simple form if you’re interested. We’re genuinely excited about how 2018 went for our clients, and would love to work with you in 2019!


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *