Increasing Your Fundraising Potential

Benchmark this year’s fundraising results and explore your potential for 2017 by taking advantage of the latest data set on contributions raised by the Philanthropy 400, The Chronicle’s list of the U.S. charities that raise the most from private sources. 

From the Chronicle of Philanthropy

What part of reality are we not seeing here?  What relevance does a huge organization with untitleda large development staff and very well connected board members have to do with your very small nonprofit, even smaller (or nonexistent!) development department and really nice board members?

Not much.

And yet, it is their golden ring that we keep aiming for.

My first fundraising job was at USC—a top rated research university.  I raised millions of dollars, and was naïve enough to think I was hot stuff.  Fundraising R me and all that.  Then I went to a small public policy think tank.  And I killed myself to raise a couple of hundred thousand dollars.  Did I stop being hot or did the fact that the operating expenses for the nonprofit was just under a million have something to do with my numbers?

Yes, Virginia.  Who you raise money for is at least as important your talent in raising funds.  In both places you must do the right things, but your results will be very dependent on your organization’s size, sophistication, and resources.

So, no, don’t benchmark against the largest 400 nonprofits, unless you are high up in the largest 500.  If, like the majority of nonprofits out there, you have expenses of under $500,000 those 400 have absolutely no meaning to you at all.  Even if you are part of the 25% of all public charities with expenses between $500K and $5M, there is relatively little those organizations can tell you.

Look to organizations who are like-sized and, frankly, in similar sub-sectors.  If your organization serves the environment or animals you are raising far less than educational organizations or religion.  Track with those most like you and see what they are doing that you could adopt to increase your fundraising capacity. Look to those organizations that maximize what they have and compare it what you do.

Stop looking for that one gift that is larger than your entire budget and consider how to increase the number of donors who care passionately about what you do.  Love them for what they do for your cause and your mission.

Start thinking about new audiences and new ways to reach them.  Look back at donors who have ceased to support you and find out why—and then do something to change that dynamic.

In short, take a long hard look at who you are, how you function and then figure out how to deploy your (undoubtedly limited) resources in the most effective, efficient ways.  In this way, you will  not only increase your potential but you will increase the amount you raise and your donors’ loyalty.  And in this way, you will be doing the very best you can to serve your clients and your cause.


Janet Levine works to help nonprofits increase their fundraising capacity and go from mired to inspired.  See how she can make your 2017 better.  While there, sign up for the newsletter and contact Janet for a free 30-minute consultation.



About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s