You’re not alone:
Fundraising is broken
RaiseMN lead coach Leah E. Olm shares her take on the often unspoken challenges of fundraising and calls for a transformative shift for more authentic, relational and ethical fundraising.
If you’ve been in fundraising for a while, you’ve probably noticed some deep problems with our field.
There aren’t enough of us. Organizations across the country struggle to find good fundraisers, and as a result the best fundraisers and consultants are typically too expensive for smaller or mid-sized organizations. If you can’t raise more money, you can’t compete for top talent, and if you can’t hire top talent, you struggle to raise more money—so nonprofits get stuck.
This is happening here in Minnesota, and throughout the country. Nonprofits across the state told us recently that 69% aren’t confident that their current fundraising strategy is meeting the demands of your mission. 72% of nonprofits rely exclusively on volunteers or a single staffer (typically the Executive Director) for their fundraising. This has real consequences.
The reason there’s a talent shortage isn’t some big secret. Fundraising as a career is tough on people.
You’re not given much support, and often asked to raise unreasonable amounts of money unreasonably fast. It’s isolating work. It’s an incredibly public role, one that requires you to be constantly ‘on,’ projecting confidence and certainty when you’re sometimes navigating choppy waters behind the scenes. Fundraising is seen as a career for schmoozers, wealthy folks, power brokers, and sales sharks—stopping many highly-qualified and deeply relational folks from getting involved. (Community organizers and volunteer managers, I’m looking at you!)
And if that isn’t enough, the culture around fundraising tends to be toxic.
Because we live in a culture where money is power, we’ve decided it’s okay to treat donors differently. When donors step out of line, many leaders tell fundraisers to walk it off—to laugh off flirtatious comments, to ignore donors’ blatant racism or sexism, or to excuse downright rudeness or cruelty. We’ve decided that some donations are more important than the safety of our people. That’s not ok.
Fundraising doesn’t have to be like this.
Following the footsteps of hundreds of trailblazing fundraisers who’ve found a different way , many of us have figured out how to fundraise differently. We’ve learned to build authentic relationships that transform fundraisers and donors alike. We’ve gotten better at setting and maintaining boundaries with donors. We’ve learned that vulnerability, honesty, and cooperation in our field are valuable, and lead to stronger teams and organizational partnerships. We’ve focused on the donors who already love our organizations and raised the money we needed.
We became fundraisers because, deep down, we know that raising money is vital to the health of our nonprofit ecosystem. We’re deeply passionate about fundraising because it makes everything we care about possible. And we know that raising money is just like community organizing or recruiting volunteers: you’re just asking folks to give their financial resources instead of their time.
So here’s the ask: let’s change fundraising in Minnesota together.
If you’re a fundraiser and these challenges resonate with you, we are working to create space to address them together, and we want to hear from you! If you’re a nonprofit leader looking to learn new ways to fundraise, we want to meet you. If you’re a new fundraiser and you need some pointers, welcome to the best job on earth, and we’re here for you.
If you’re part of Minnesota’s beautiful nonprofit ecosystem and you’re ready to explore healthier, authentic, life-giving ways of getting the resources you need: welcome. We’re so excited to build with you.
Leah E. Olm is the Director of Coaching and Curriculum for GiveMN, and lead coach for RaiseMN.