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Don’t Focus on Fundraising – Focus on Excellence

One of the biggest challenges facing most nonprofits is a sustainable revenue stream.

So, many hire consultants to help them implement a fundraising strategy. While that approach may deliver modest increases in revenue, it will likely fall far short of the organization’s potential. The data proves this: only a handful of nonprofits have grown from small to large in the past 50 years – while tens of thousands of for-profits have.

Maybe it’s time your nonprofit takes a few tips from the for-profit world.

Even with all the  great work happening at so many nonprofits, focusing on fundraising alone, and not organization-wide performance can be like putting “lipstick on a pig.” Organizations need to demonstrate discipline, rigor and focus in all aspects of their operation before asking others to support their work. Seeking investments without that  and no plan to address it borders on the unethical.

At Altruist Partners, we believe a successful nonprofit starts with integrity, transparency and accountability – and programs that offer a clear and compelling SROI (Social Return on Investment). Add to that a growth plan with metrics, milestones and a financial forecast that aims to accelerate impact and solve real problems. With that as a foundation, nonprofits can instill confidence in investors of all types (government agencies, foundations, businesses and individuals) as well as earned income.

Are your programs effective at solving problems? Are you the best organization at what you do? Do you have the ambition to solve the problems you are addressing? Until you can answer “YES!” to all of those questions, you shouldn’t even be thinking about asking for additional money.

The way to attract long-term, committed investors isn’t with a glitzy auction, a celebrity studded golf tournament or a one more direct mail campaign. Don’t focus on fundraising – focus on excellence. Then solicit feedback from your investors and potential investors.

Share your successes and failures openly. Build authentic, trusting relationships. And show them how their investments are making an impact. You’ll grow from attracting the small amounts of money people give away as gifts to the large amounts of money they give organizations that provide compelling return on investments– even if that return is purely social value.

Stop thinking about “donations.” Start thinking about “investment” and what you first need to do to maximize the return you can create. Then you can maximize your impact with highly effective programs and deeply engaged investors.

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