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© 2019 by Blue Sky Philanthropy

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© 2019 by Blue Sky Philanthropy

The fundraising lesson I learned the hard way

October 30, 2019

 

It was ten years ago, almost to the day, when I realized something was terribly wrong.

 

We were heading into the make-or-break last 8 weeks of the year at the small shop where I was leading fundraising.

 

And in every phone call, meeting, letter and e-mail, I heard the same devastating news.

 

"I’m sorry…we’ve had to cut back”.

 

“It’s just not in the budget this year.”

 

“We’ve had to reallocate our spending…”

 

The 2008 financial crisis had hit us hard.

 

I didn’t know it then, but by the end of the year, we’d lose close to 50% of one of our biggest sources of fundraising revenue – corporate partnerships.

 

It could’ve been a devastating blow – but lucky for us, our growing community of individual donors stepped up and saved the day.

 

Despite tough times – or perhaps because of them – these folks were giving from their hearts, moved to dig a little deeper to help their neighbour, and donating more than ever before.

 

By the time 2008 came to a close, our revenue from individual donors had increased by more than 30% - protecting us from what could’ve been a deadly blow due to corporate cut backs.

  

I want to pause for a moment and be clear here - I’m not sharing this story to put corporate fundraising in a negative light.

 

For many organizations, a well thought out corporate partnership strategy is a crucial part of your healthy revenue mix. 

 

Also, I believe there are tons of opportunities to create a more purposeful connection between corporate fundraising and individual giving, and actively seek shared opportunities to grow your community of engaged and excited supporters.

 

So instead, I hope you will see my story as a call to action to make sure you diversify your fundraising mix before it's too late.

 

The reality is, individuals give the vast majority of donations here in North America – more than 70% of philanthropic gifts come from individuals, both here in Canada, and the US. 

 

You need individual donors on your side when times are tough - because these are the donors who are most likely to dig even deeper, and keep giving from their hearts.

 

So, let me ask you this:

 

Does your organization have a balanced, diversified mix of fundraising revenue?

 

If not, where could you be at risk, or overdependent on one revenue stream, donor or special event?

 

And finally, how are you investing in retaining and growing your community of individual donors?

 

I learned an important fundraising lesson the hard way.

 

And I’m sharing this story today so you don’t have to.

 

 

 

Emma Lewzey, CFRE is an award-winning fundraising expert

with 20+ years experience raising millions of dollars across the arts, education, health and human services sectors. If you want to raise more 5, 6 and even 7-figure donations your non-profit, you can download Emma’s free Blueprint for Major Gift Success, and learn the 4 crucial steps to raising big gifts (at any size shop!)

 

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