Fundraising: Art or Science?

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

You hear it all the time:
“Fundraising is more of an art than a science.”

I agree.

I also think you need to get the science right before you get too artistic. I once met with a nonprofit that seemingly had everything going for it: A strong leader, hard-working staff, and good programs that delivered impact. In some ways, it was the best in the business for its area of expertise. Yet, it failed to thrive. Many donors were not renewing their support, let alone increasing their giving. Why? Deeper analysis of the organization showed that it had not been communicating consistently with its donors. In an entire year, donors received only one memo and one fundraising appeal. Supporters were not hearing about the nonprofit’s achievements or why their contributions mattered. Worse, it took weeks for individuals to be thanked for their gifts—when they were thanked at all. Bit by bit, donors started slipping away. All the artful strategies in the world wouldn’t have helped this group when it couldn’t perform the basics of donor recognition and communication.

How do you know when you have the “science” right?

Your nonprofit has:

  • A cohesive fundraising plan with targeted goals
  • A communications plan and the ability to execute on it
  • Thoughtful donor cultivation strategies
  • A plan to welcome new donors
  • Meaningful, prompt and appropriate recognition for all donations
  • A donor-centric mentality among staff
  • Ways to measure the performance of all fundraising programs
  • Accurate information in your database
  • Committed, trained personnel to carry forward your mission

A nonprofit will not thrive by procedures alone. At the same time, it may fail to excel if it doesn’t have a strong operational foundation.

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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