Three Common Myths in Fundraising

Myth: The next generation is too young to make major donations or think about planned giving.

First of all, it’s important to remember one thing: every donor is different. Rather than simply categorizing donors by age – and thus, assumed wealth – pathways should be in place for all kinds of donors to become major givers. Whether be through their own personal fortune, a contribution from an inheritance or through the influence they have over someone else’s giving (e.g. their parents), if an opportunity exists for a young person to become a major donor, it would be folly not to make the ask.

Furthermore, a long term strategy should be in place to groom your young annual donors and volunteers  to become major donors. As an individual builds their wealth, so to should you build their relationship with their organisation, to ensure that when an individual is ready to make a major gift, your cause will be the lucky recipient.

Myth: It’s All About Who You Know

While it can be helpful to begin a fundraising campaign with a list of excellent connections who have deep pockets, it’s not all about who you know. A very important part of fundraising is who knows you – and what they know about you.

This relies on two things – first of all, your public perception, which may or may not be extensive at the beginning of a fundraising campaign. Second of all, it’s about how you sell yourself to new prospects – what can you do to control their feelings about your organisation and the cause that you’re promoting. People will give when they trust your organisation and properly understand the work that you do. Focusing on the way that every potential donor engages with your cause will ensure a more robust campaign than if you simply chase high net worth individuals alone.

Myth: A fundraising goal can be reached by dividing it into equal parts and seeking equal gifts.

This is a common misconception in fundraising, especially for those new to the game. If you have, for example, a fundraising goal of $100,000, it’s unlikely that it will be achieved with one hundred $1,000 donations. The donations you receive are more likely to look like a ‘pyramid’, with a very small amount of very large donations (perhaps only one or two) at the top, a medium amount of medium donations in the middle, and a large amount of small donations at the bottom.

The success of your campaign can rely heavily on how much energy you invest into each of these areas. It makes sense to focus a good proportion of your energies on securing one or two pace-setting donations that will prop up the rest of the campaign, and inspire philanthropy in those who are only able to give small and medium amounts. Understanding that many of the people you approach will be able to give only a small amount of money can help you to focus your attention on really getting it right with those prospects that you know have a large capacity to give, and not underselling yourself in the process.

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