Our industry is currently facing an interesting conundrum. At the same time as we are hearing reports of unprecedented multi-million (or even billion) dollar mega-gifts, there are many organisations struggling to maintain income levels.
At O’Keefe and Partners we are seeing a growing divide between organisations at the top and bottom of the success-ladder, begging the question “what does it take to succeed in today’s fundraising environment?” Well in our experience, there are four common factors shared by top-performing organisations in the sector…
1. They embrace change – The fundraising environment is constantly changing and it is thosewho understand and respond to those changes that are the most likely to succeed. The benefits of a willingness to embrace change have been most obvious in the advent of online giving. Organisations that were early to embrace it are streets ahead of the majority of non-profits who are still finding their feet in a digital world.
2. They review their strategies – It is unreasonable to expect improved performance from the same old strategies. As Albert Einstein is often credited with saying “the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over, and then expecting different results.” Top-performing organisations systematically review their strategies, even the most successful ones. They look for fresh approaches to their fundraising programs and encourage the injection of new ideas.
3. They take risks – There is a certain amount of risk-taking required to achieve goals beyond the ordinary. While the third sector is naturally risk-adverse, being educated and well-informed about the giving environment can help you to take calculated risks. Recipients of mega-gifts are not just lucky, they have most likely made a significant investment in their campaigns and major gift programs and been willing to experiment to find the winning formula.
4. They thrive on competition – Competition has never been stronger as a growing number of charities vie for funds. While many see charitable competition as a barrier to success, a small number thrive on it. Competition is a fantastic motivator and can drive those with the right attitude to achieve. Keeping an eye on your competition can also be source of new ideas and is sometimes a valuable lesson on what not to do.