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The Biggest Challenge in Fundraising Revealed – It’s Not What I Thought

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I recently asked our members and other friends a question: What is your biggest fundraising challenge?

I asked this not just because the team and I are curious (and we are!) but because it will help us create material (blogs, tip sheets, webinars etc) that really address the need of our community, and help you succeed.

And wow, did I get answers! Thanks to the excellent people who took the time to share their challenges with me. I discovered that the top challenge was this:

I don’t have enough time to do all my work!

A close second was Problems with my boss and/or board. Not surprising, as we hear about this from our members constantly. You might be saying that “not enough time” is really a problem with your boss or board — because it happens when an organization is not properly staffed or deployed. Fair enough, and you’ll see below how connected these two issues sometimes are.

A distant third: donor acquisition.

Check out what some of the participants had to say about their time:

We work 15-hour days, which leaves little time for fundraising, even though we depend upon donations to enable us to work the 15 hours required. We are too tired to think outside the box, sadly.

I’m a Director of Development for a small org and there’s not enough time, or enough knowledge within my small team to get into the data. Also, it’s overwhelming dealing with the details, which takes time away from fundraising.

My biggest fundraising challenge is having too many job responsibilities to really excel in any given area.

Sound familiar?

If you are struggling with time, it can seem like the last thing you should do is add something to your plate — like reading this blog. But the truth is, gaining more knowledge and being more connected to the wider fundraising community will save time

When you do this, you’ll discover more effective and efficient ways of doing things. You’ll gain confidence about what you’re doing, which will mean less time spent second-guessing yourself or defending your decisions. And you’ll learn which things you don’t need to be spending time doing.

The even tougher barrier is often the bosses and boards. Here are some of the comments about them:

I could raise more money if my boss would get out of my way and encourage rather than discourage me. I have tried to educate her, but she still micromanages and acts like a bottleneck.

My boss is a seat-of-the-pants guy, following his gut rather than the data.

One common way people struggle with their leaders is Shiny Object Syndrome — the fascination with new things, often to the exclusion of keeping up with the basics:

Our CEO tends to focus on the “shiny, new object” at the expense of tried and true methods. Seems like most of the time leadership prefers to make decisions on their gut instincts, which in many cases is incorrect.

Who shared their biggest fundraising challenge with us? More than 9 out of 10 are people professionally involved in fundraising:

  • 62% work full time in fundraising
  • 23% fundraising is among other duties
  • 8% consultants or supplier to nonprofits
  • 6% volunteers and others

If you are struggling with your time and/or your bosses, I hope reading what other people like you are facing is encouraging — you are not alone. And there are solutions to your challenges! And in the coming months, we will be creating new materials specifically to help you survive and thrive.

The most important thing to remember: Start small. Fix one small problem at a time. Remember the old saying — The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

 Our Moceanic courses (available only to Fundraisingology Lab members and Coaching+ clients) can help you save time and win over your boss! They’ll equip you with known and tested fundraising truths from long-time experts. Click here to find out about joining The Fundraisingology Lab.

Related posts:

Help! My Board Won’t Listen To Me!

Your Seven-Point Guide to Ensuring Respect for Fundraising


  • Jeff Brooks

    Jeff Brooks is a Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. He has more than 30 years of experience in fundraising, and has worked as a writer and creative director on behalf of top nonprofits around the world, including CARE, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Feeding America, and many others.

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