4 Missing Management Tools That Derail Your Fundraising Success - Part 4 of the Revolutionizing Fundraising Series

• fundraising practices • effective fundraising • Nonprofit management • Nonprofit teams • Nonprofit fundraising • donor management • fundraising management tools • successful funraising • meet fundraising targets • ideal donor profiles • donor prospects • donor profiles • donor search • donor research • successful fundraising management
Ellen Bristol

Missing Fundraising Management Tools  

This is the fourth in our series on fundraising management. Last time we talked about Three Major Duties of Great Fundraising Management. This time we’ll discuss the must have management tools for your teams fundraising success.

The Unanswered Questions That Derail Successful Fundraising Teams

Fundraising professionals are proud of the work they do. But when they can’t do their work with clarity of focus and adequate tools to reach their targets, it derails the pride they take in their work and your fundraising goals.

Unfortunately, as mentioned in previous blogs in this series, too many managers have failed to provide answers to these three key questions about donor pipelines and moves management:

  • Who should I call on?
  • How much should I ask for?
  • What do I do next?

People consistently perform better when they know where they’re going, how to get there, and have the right tools to reach their goals. Providing those answers, removing obstacles, knowing what’s expected, providing tools and resources; these are the responsibility of great managers. If you and your team don’t have those, there’s a management deficit; your train comes off the track.

Here’s How Management Answers Those Key Questions With These 4 Must Have Tools:

“Who should I call on?”

Tool #1: Prospects with ideal funder profiles

These are not terribly difficult to create, so it’s upsetting to know more than three-quarters of non-profits fail to provide them at all or limit their profiles to giving capacity only. I hate to break it to ya, but being wealthy doesn’t automatically motivate a person to give to charity at all, yours included.

The most ideal profiles provide giving motivations. This criterion enables you to learn what drives their decision-making and tells you pretty fast whether the prospect is worth further effort on your part – regardless of their capacity.

 Tool #1 Tips:

  • Build Ideal-Funder Profiles. If you’re trying to decide on whom to call, you need to know why your prospects give. Make sure your profiles include giving motivations. Prospects failing to meet these criteria can still be solicited by lower-cost means (special fundraising events, direct-donor appeal campaigns, online giving), but probably don’t justify more of your scarce personal time.

  • Build Profiles for Grant-makers and Corporate Sponsors. Develop similar profiles for grant-making organizations and corporate prospects. Their reasons for giving, expectations of returns, and so on… are of paramount importance. If they don’t support your mission or cause, or if they have no track record of supporting charity at all (that’s for corporations), be careful with any amount of time you spend in pursuit.

  • Ask good questions. Yes, we’re supposed to listen more than we talk, but you’ve got to ask the right questions – open-ended probing questions, inviting the prospect to give insights into their motivations. Read Three Simple Questions that Get Donors to Give for some suggestions.

“How much should I ask for?”

Tool #2: Use good historical records showing funder’s giving pattern, PLUS access the research databases. This is really a great question to ask, one that may be easier to answer in sales organizations, were you already know the prices (in most instances). So, folks raising money for charity should be asking this question – and they should be getting answers from your excellent management practices.

A good CRM platform showing historical data is a must. However, it might seem crazy to ask a $500 donor to give $25,000 if all you knew was their past giving history. Good prospect research services might show you this specific donor has given to lots of groups with similar missions, at a much higher level. Why not ask for more?

Prospect research services are a must for anyone seeking major gifts, [1] especially when they show giving capacity, as well  giving history and preferences. With insights like these you'll know how big a gift you could/should be soliciting.

Similar databases are mission-critical for grant-seekers. For corporate sponsorship, lots of data is available in prospect-research services, plus there are many other ways, including the business press, individual company websites, and databases like Dun & Bradstreet.

Tool #2 Tips:

  • Capacity Criteria in Ideal-Funder Profiles. Your funder profiles must contain capacity criteria. For individuals, the profile should spell out the “ideal” level at which you want donors to give. For grant-makers, select “floor” and “ceiling” criteria. Small grants might not be worth it; huge grants can wreck your levels of diversification and throw things out of balance. Same concept applies to corporate support.

  • Donor Databases. Don’t rely on spreadsheets or notes scattered here or there. Step up to a real CRM. If you honestly can’t afford a nonprofit CRM platform, use a free generic CRM platform. Systems like,, and abound and are free or very low cost. Some even provide discounts to non-profits. No matter which you choose, you need to have all your data in one place and readily available to your team.

  • Research Databases. Research the heck out of your prospects. For major donors, use prospect-research services like For foundation grants, use the Foundation Center Directory or equivalent sources. For corporate sponsorship, scrutinize your prospect research service, follow business publications, use Dun & Bradstreet, seek firms with Corporate Social Responsibility departments or contribute to other local nonprofits. If you don’t want to buy the subscriptions, haunt your local library.

  • Overcome “Ask Reluctance.” If you’re still not sure how much to ask for, make a suggestion. Squeamish about asking for large number? Get over it; no money, no mission, no success. Learn to ask for more than is comfortable and make it easy on both of you with something like “we were thinking in the range of X to Y”. People like options let the prospect negotiate and choose the amount right then and there.

What Do I Do Next?

Tool #3: Look at Key Performance Indicators. Often referred to as KPI’s, these handy little management tools are so easy to employ, we’re surprised more fundraising teams don’t use them. Our research shows as many as 30% of organizations don’t even track their total income against an income target. {Sigh}

First-timers are often uncomfortable when asked to establish a target, because they associate missing the target with punishment. Learn to think of them as “something to shoot for,” and then welcome your results, whether they are on target or not. You’ll quickly discover any one or more of the following:

  • You set the target wrong (too high OR too low). Use historical trends to give you more accuracy next time.

  • You’re measuring the right thing the wrong way. So, recalibrate your measurement tools and how you use them.

  • You can analyze what went wrong upstream and fix it early, rather than letting it go on until it’s too late and too expensive to fix it (whatever “it” is).

  • The group usually has more (and often better) ideas than one person alone, collaborate and brainstorm with your team.

Tool #3 Tips:

Provide your team with:

  • Number of qualified funding prospects. How many qualified new prospects do you want your development team to cultivate actively per month or year? Note: This is a perfect example of management practices providing tools for success.

  • Number of retained funders making the next gift. Donor retention is easier when you use the concept as a KPI.

  • Pipeline targets. How much income do you want to see in the “projected” column? Remember, if you keep two or three times as much in “projected,” your odds of reaching your income target are greater.

  • Marketing targets. How many “touches” do you want to make, how, and how often? Will you use hard copy newsletters, e-newsletters, social-media posts, appeals, articles, guest blogs, video testimonials….? Oh…you haven’t been thinking about all that??? Now would be a good time to start.

Always remember, great management actively seeks evidence of undesirable results. Why? Because when you know what’s wrong, it’s easier to fix it.

Again, What Do I Do Next?

Tool #4: Build and maintain a true opportunity pipeline. If there was ever an obstacle crying out for fundraising-management resource, it’s pipeline management. The opportunity pipeline (ubiquitous in sales organizations) needs to be adopted aggressively in the nonprofit sector.

It’s a simple concept: a checklist of all “open” opportunities for contributions of all types, with each opportunity located at a particular stage in the process. Regrettably, most nonprofit CRMs, which do many other things quite well, flunk the opportunity-management test. They usually include a Moves Management module, which is fine as far as it goes, although we don’t think it goes far enough; see the blog What’s Missing in Moves Management?

A good pipeline-management method[2] will show all active or open giving opportunities, and locate those opportunities somewhere definite between “hello” and “here’s my check.” Read our book Fundraising the SMART Way: Predictable, Consistent Income Growth for Your Charity, for more details on this model and access to a companion website with templates.

You Have GOT to be kidding me!

If some of you are thinking this sounds like a lot of work for little return, you would be incorrect. This is what it takes to run and sustain successful non-profit funding. Especially if you’re running a small organization and trying to make it in this volatile economic climate.

Raising money is challenging, time-consuming, and labor-intensive. The individual development officer carries an opportunity cost of anywhere from $250 per hour to $3,500 per hour (and up). Do you really want your folks to waste those precious hours? And aren’t you getting a little weary over worrying about funding year after year?


SMART fundraising management practices provide a context or “scaffolding” keeping your fundraising efforts on task and on target. It answers common questions before they’re asked. It removes obstacles to success, typically ones that aren’t visible, before they get a chance to have your fundraising train flying off the track.

Even better, truly great non-profit management captures useful data because, to work at all, these practices simply must be integrated with the technology you’re using to run the business of your nonprofit – the donor-management platform, accounting software, email marketing, and social media tools. They gather performance data for you without you having to lift a finger. Once you capture the data, you get to analyze it and interpret the analysis to improve results next time around.

Great management is characteristic of high-performing for-profit organizations, but we’re simply not getting comparable results in the nonprofit sector. In an unstable, chaotic world economy, it’s urgent that we do so. Now.


[1] We like DonorSearch the best, and – full disclosure – that’s why we chose to collaborate with them to provide small organizations the opportunity to purchase their services through us at a steep discount. If you prefer or already use WealthEngine, iWave or other services, that’s fine. Just USE them.

[2] Visit our SMART Practices Resource Library and download “Teach Your Pipeline to Speak Donor” for information on our approach to pipeline management.

Interested in getting step-by-step taining and easy to implement tools mentioned in this article? 

Yes, we need these tools! 


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