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Don't Make These Fundraising Mistakes

By University Alliance
Don't Make These Fundraising Mistakes
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Relationships are the bedrock of fundraising. Often it’s who you know that determines whether you reach your goals. Trying to raise money without developing relationships with donors is one of the common fundraising mistakes.

Not only do you need to focus on finding donors who will support your vision for a project, it’s equally important to know how to cultivate relationships so people will want to donate to your cause.

Building Relationships and Maintaining Credibility

It’s important to work hard at getting others excited about your idea so they want to support you. Engaging anyone and everyone with your idea is a key to success. Instead of directly requesting funding, simply tell people about your project and ask for their advice. Let your enthusiasm and passion show. People enjoy being part of a fun, intriguing project so don’t be surprised if you receive donation, sponsorship, and endorsement offers when you present your idea in a way that really moves others.

After receiving interest in funding your project, it’s important to prove your credibility to donors so they feel comfortable investing in you. Most donors are extremely savvy in business, so if you ask for more money than necessary they’re not going to trust you. Be sure to have a solid business plan in place so you can show them exactly how you will use their money. Knowing exactly where their investment will go makes people more willing to donate, as they want to ensure their funds won’t go to waste.

10 Fundraising Mistakes

Fundraising mistakes can keep you from getting the money you need. Help your idea get the financial support it deserves by familiarizing yourself with these 10 common fundraising mistakes to avoid unknowingly making them yourself:

  • Thinking that anyone with money will donate to your cause: Regardless of anyone’s wealth they’re not going to donate to a cause they know nothing about or means little to them. You have to tell them about your cause and get them involved before asking for donations.
  • Having weak leadership in place, making investors wary of your stability: The quality of leadership reflects on the entire organization and can percolate through the ranks. Weak or inefficient leadership can erode credibility in your cause or project.
  • Assuming all investors can donate the same amount of money: Each donor is different with different abilities to give, even if they appear equally wealthy. You can’t just divide your goal by the number of donors. Some will give more, some less and some not at all.
  • Not researching and evaluating prospective donors: It’s difficult to build relationships with donors if you don’t know anything about them. You should at least know their donation history with your organization, family background and interests. It is part of building relationships.
  • Thinking a good cause is enough: Few groups raise money for a bad cause. But a good cause doesn’t sell itself. Fundraising for the best of reasons still requires building relationships with donors and passion on the part of yourself and the organization to make people believe your cause is the best.
  • Asking for donations before building a solid relationship: This is a good way to be rejected. Few donors will give if your request comes out of nowhere and you haven’t made the effort to establish a relationship.
  • Mismanaging donor funds: A sure way to sour future donors is to mismanage their gifts. Scrupulous, transparent handling of money and ensuring it goes where it was intended is essential. Not only will donors refuse to give again if there is a whiff of mismanagement, they’ll tell everyone they know.
  • Not properly thanking your donors: You probably thank someone who passes the salt during dinner, so why wouldn’t you sincerely and promptly thank a donor who gave your organization money? Along with mismanaging funds, failing to express appreciation is a good way to cut off future donations.
  • Neglecting to adjust fundraising strategies to match current trends: Fundraising methods have changed over years and will continue changing. Younger donors could emerge into more dominant roles, laws and tax codes could change. Online efforts are becoming more important. Don’t remain static.
  • Focusing solely on funding from large grants: Grants, especially if you can regularly secure them, certainly simplify fundraising. But relying on grants alone and not building relationships with potential donors can leave you with nothing to fall back on if the grants disappear.

It’s important to have a strong pitch prepared you can present to donors at any time. This allows them to see that you’re both well-prepared and have a clear vision for their gift ─ two highly valued features. While you’re not expected to have every aspect of your plan ironed out, knowing what you’re doing and why it matters demonstrates a solid foundation.

Definitely do your best to present your idea to donors, but know when enough is enough. Don’t waste your time trying to push unwilling people to make a donation. Instead, focus your efforts on finding your next prospect to engage and build a relationship with.

Request More Info On Nonprofit Courses

Courses such as fundraising and grant strategies can help anyone working with nonprofits increase their effectiveness. That, along with other valuable courses, is included in an executive certificate in Transformational Nonprofit Leadership program available 100% online.


I am taking Principles of Leading Transformational Nonprofits and have enjoyed Dr. Ricke-Kiely's interactive online teaching style. Our virtual classes have been absolutely amazing. The classroom included tech support as well as classmates from other parts of the country. Dr. Ricke-Kiely's knowledge, experience and subject matter expertise were outstanding. Her ability to reference the other recorded lectures and bring them into our virtual lectures made things really come together. This course is a must for anyone in nonprofit leadership.

Ann Guillory

Category: Nonprofit Leadership