PMA Consulting, LLC

Want to improve fundraising in 2016? Consider Three Things


Patton McDowell PMA President

While fundraising is almost always the headline when we begin conversations with a new nonprofit partner, we find the issues that inhibit success are often not related to their actual fundraising tactics.  More often than not, their challenge is tied to a lack of clear strategy, and an inability to maximize staff and board talent. We’ve in fact identified six characteristics of high-performing nonprofits – separate from actual fundraising operations – that are critical to revenue-generating success.  Here are three characteristics we believe help our partners fulfill Mission and Vision.

  1. An effective strategic planning process. Our most successful fundraising engagements are rooted in not just a strategic plan, but a facilitated process that engages the right internal and external constituents.  Most organizations are comfortable defining their mission, but less comfortable articulating their vision (where they’re going and what success looks like), nor are they clear how donors’ support will invest in that future success.  Yes, “strategic planning” conjures up groan-worthy memories for many of us, but we’ve been able to design a process that is both engaging and applicable well beyond the duration of our engagement.
  2. A clearly defined partnership plan. Funders love to see collaboration, and your ability to acquire their funding – and attract new interested funders – can often be significantly improved with a well thought out “partnership plan.”   Who else serves the population you serve or provides similar services?   Consider opportunities to partner in 2016, or make sure you can articulate why your organization provides a unique program/service.   When partnership opportunities do emerge, consider which funders might be attracted to a joint proposal, especially if it is a funder that may be giving some funds to both organizations.  Illustrate the impact of an increased investment for both of the communities being served, and lift up this partnership through all of your communication channels.  You’ll likely find other donors respond favorably to the message of partnership.
  3. An (appropriately!) engaged board. Your organization will seldom maximize its fundraising potential if board members are not comfortable ambassadors for your fundraising process.  We spend a lot of time helping organizations define the ways board members can contribute to any of five different phases of the fundraising cycle, as well as looking at the overall process that identifies, recruits and orients board members in the most effective way.   Too often nonprofits jump straight to fundraising tactics with their board, and wonder why they resist.  Looking more closely at the overall board development plan creates better board member understanding, a more comfortable board member ambassador, and ultimately a more effective board member fundraiser.

Clearly, fundraising success is based on more than the actual tactics that help your nonprofit solicit funds.   Let us know if we can help you consider and integrate these and other elements that contribute to your overall organizational success in 2016 and beyond.

For more information, contact Patton McDowell, PMA President at