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DIY or don’t? When to call in the fundraising pros

By November 2, 2015July 6th, 2022Steier Tips

I admit I can be a bit of a weekend warrior when it comes to Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects. Many of which I have started and have yet to finish. I have learned the hard way that there are definitely times when it is best to call in an expert. The same can be said of DIY fundraising efforts.

Recently a former client shared the scenario that led his parish to the Steier Group:

When we first started planning the campaign, the entire core group was of the opinion that we could run this campaign ourselves. As the process progressed, we started to have some doubts and brought in three firms just to listen to what they had to say. Actually, we thought we could pick their brains, incorporate some of their ideas and still go ahead with doing it ourselves. We found out we were really out of our league. It is one thing to raise $175,000 for new windows or a parking lot, but when it comes to raising $2.5 million, we needed a professional.

Sound familiar? The “can we do it ourselves?” discussion is nearly as common among nonprofit organizations as is the need to fundraise. Whatever extraordinary projects you hope to fund through a capital campaign, understand that you get one chance to do it correctly. Consider the following when the “DIY” question makes its way onto your committee’s agenda.

  • Yes, your organization can run its own campaign. However, it is unlikely to raise anywhere near the amount of money that a professional fundraising campaign will. On average, our firm raises 180 percent more money than the campaigns nonprofits run by themselves.
  • Campaigns monopolize resources. During critical times in a capital campaign, our firm dedicates around 100 hours of our team’s time in a week. How much capacity do you and your staff have?
  • Capital campaigns are sophisticated. They require special knowledge in areas ranging from graphic design and grant writing to wealth research and planned giving. The fact is that when you look under the hood of a modern campaign, there are a lot of moving parts.
  • DIY campaigns rely on the strength of your volunteer team. It is difficult to “fire” well-intentioned, but unproductive helpers. The do-it-yourself approach leaves your organization vulnerable to stalling and prolonging the solicitation and pledge periods.

The notion that you can pad your campaign thermometer with funds saved by running your own campaign is tempting. However, numbers don’t lie. Carefully weigh the pros and cons when considering your organization’s fundraising approach and whether you really want to tackle a comprehensive campaign without counsel. From my experience, you will be stepping over dollars to pick up pennies if you try to DIY.

I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions regarding best practices and the professional services of the Steier Group.