The #1 killer of fabulous fundraising

What’s the single biggest crusher of campaigns, trampler of targets, and burden on budgets?

What most flummoxes fundraisers, disheartens your donors, and bedevils your boards?


Fear shows up in our work in insidious ways that are hard to see. If left unchecked, at best, it’ll hold our fundraising back – and at worst, it can bring your organization to its knees.

It’s such a part of our sector’s culture that we don’t think about it when we’re trying to pinpoint why our fundraising program is underperforming, why our organization has a revolving door of Development Directors, or why we just seem stuck, and unable to move closer to our goals and dreams.

Scared of scarcity

I believe the scarcity mindset is one of the biggest scourges of our sector.

The constant concerns about competition, the selfish scrambling for your piece of the pie, the penny-pinching and underinvesting in vital functions like fundraising, the manufactured malaise of the mythical “donor fatigue” (that one deserves a whole other post!).

What if we took all that energy and put it into something productive? What if we stopped fighting for a bigger piece of the pie, and figured out how to bake another one?

Next time you see the scarcity mindset kick in at your organization (or in your own head!), think about how you can change the conversation.

What incredible opportunities have you not tapped into yet because you’re so busy scrambling for crumbs, and worrying that there’s not enough?

How could you and your “competition” benefit from collaborating to move closer to the vision you are both working to achieve?

In what ways is your organization being penny wise and pound foolish, a practice that holds you back from raising more money for your amazing work?

Cowering from change

“That’s just the way we do things around here.”

“We tried that before, it didn’t work”.

“That might be good for others, but it’s not for us”.

We’ve all heard these phrases in our fundraising work – and perhaps you’ve even uttered them yourself (I know I have!). 

The next time these kind of comments come up, muster your courage, and investigate. Be curious, dig in, and ask some questions of yourself and others.

Are you coming to these conclusions based on solid evidence, by using key fundraising success metrics? Or are you allowing things like personal preference to drive your fundraising decisions?

When you talk about the way we do things around here, what does that look like, and what values come into play? How did you arrive at the way you do things – by purposeful decision and design, or by accident?

If something is good for others, but not for us, what are the characteristics that make it good for them? What are the barriers or other factors that make it “not for us”?

Fear of failure

Fear of failing is often blamed for a lack of innovation – but I think it’s also stopping organizations from putting in place the basic building blocks of a sustainable fundraising program.

I’ve seen this show up most often in major gifts. Organizations and the people within them will tie themselves in knots to avoid asking a donor directly for a gift. Instead, they’ll create a time consuming special event, sell that same donor a ticket to it, and raise a fraction of money for five times the cost.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against events (okay, I might, but that’s a whole other post too) – but our fear of rejection, and all our cultural baggage around asking for money is stopping our organizations from realizing their true potential.

Not to mention that the fearsome ask, while important, is just a small part of what you’ll be spending your time on in a healthy, successful major gift program…but perhaps that’s a story for another time too!

How are your fears getting in the way of you doing your most effective fundraising, and what do you do to overcome those fears?

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