Fundraising warning: Don't limit your fishing to the smallest pond

Within the last couple weeks, there was an article about another nonprofit closing.

Reading the article, I saw an incredibly common fundraising myth perpetuated. The myth sounds goes something like this: if we only had more businesses and foundation grants, then our funding challenges would be over.

Check this quote out:

"You really need more corporate-type sponsors and more grants, and those are very difficult things to get when you know you're running on a bare minimum to begin with," Pellerin said.

Despite GivingUSA's reporting year after year, apparently one of the best kept "secrets" of fundraising is that over 75% of the billions of dollars given each year is given by individuals. Individuals. People like you and me. Well...maybe with deeper pockets, but individuals nonetheless.

Doesn't it almost seem this organization sees itself as a victim of stingy businesses? This type of entitlement is not the attitude you want to be publicizing in a small community like this nonprofit's. I've been blogging against entitlement for years. It has no place in a successful fundraising program.

GivingUSA 2009

As you're working on your year-end fundraising, take a look at GivingUSA's chart of last year's giving and resist the urge to fish exclusively in the companies and foundations pond.

Corporations and foundations are sources of donations, but the biggest "donor pond" is individuals.

In addition to the standard end-of-the-year direct mail fundraising letters, check your database to see who hasn't made your organization a gift in a while. Make a list of these individuals. Then try to find a couple projects that might be a good match.

Then make appointments and ask them for money!

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. Everything you say is spot on...
    but this morning, you have left out one tiny fact.

    With the economy having been rocked earlier this year, organizations that have their act together should have already planned and assembled an appeal, by Sept or October at the latest. To suggest that " as they put together year end appeal" it's way too late, this year...

    people already have been approached.
    my opinion.

  2. GREAT point, Peter.

    Thanks for clarifying the timing!

What would you add?