The New Reality for Fundraisers


By Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

 Fundraising is challenging in the best of circumstances.  But the New Reality that many non-profit managers face includes budget cutbacks, hiring freezes, declining support from federal and state government, and increased competition from innumerable worthy causes.  Here are a few thoughts on how to succeed in challenging times.

John P. Kotter is a professor emeritus from Harvard Business School.  His books, including Leading Change (1996) and many others subsequently, describe the need and steps toward continuous improvement.  The first four steps are pertinent here:

Establish a Sense of Urgency—Your awareness of the changing economic realities and the competitive market are important.  The adage that every crisis is an opportunity may be tired but it is still true.  A good place to begin is to acknowledge that the New Reality is here to stay.  Fundraising is going to demand more of your time and energy, so use that realization and plan accordingly!

Create a Guiding Coalition—Focus on putting together a group with enough power and influence to lead the effort.  Of course, look to your staff resources first.  But identify the Board members and volunteers who can lead, and let them know you are counting on them.

Alter your Vision and Strategy—Of course, you already have a vision and strategy, but make sure you rethink it in terms of the New Reality.  Assuming you have greater need and diminishing resources, it is critical that you rethink what you have been doing and construct a new plan.  How can you dedicate more time to fundraising?  Where will you look?  Who will accompany you on those calls?  What new tools will you use?  If your plan looks like your old plan, go back to step one and take a hard look at the New Reality and what is telling you about what you must do to achieve your mission!

Communicate the Change Vision—Let people know that your vision is urgent, realistic, and achievable.  Remember that your mission is worthy of their support!  Don’t be shy about letting people know that you are aware of the New Reality, that you and others have confronted it and will not let it deter the achievement of your mission.  The overwhelming majority of gifts will come from past donors to your organization.  They will be glad to know that you are confronting the New Reality, and will not be deterred!




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