Top 3 Fundraising Mistakes That Prevent Growth

Having a solid plan and preventing fundraising mistakes is crucial for fully funding a nonprofit and fulfilling its mission.

And it all starts with leadership.

Every Executive Director juggles many things including staff, Board, fundraising, and program oversight.

He or she must be focused and totally committed to the organization to successfully manage these multiple priorities.

An Executive Director who has vision, passion, and enthusiasm can rally the troops around common goals.  It’s easy for others to get excited about the work to be done when an energetic leader is showing the way.

Similarly, an Executive Director who is pessimistic, unwilling to try new things, and undervalues people will soon find himself with a host of problems include staff turnover, complacent or dysfunctional Board, and a lack of support in the community.

Leadership problems can also look like this:

  • You have good ideas, but you can’t seem to get your Board to help with anything.
  • Your staff doesn’t get along and you can’t seem to get them to work as a team.
  • You’re fundraising efforts always seem to fall short of your goals and you can’t figure out why.

I believe that effective leadership is key to the growth and sustainability of any nonprofit organization.  Over the next week or so, I’m going to share some lessons in leadership for you.  If your organization isn’t the one that everyone looks up to in the community, maybe there are some leadership qualities you need to work on.

Here are 3 fundraising mistakes that can totally derail the organization’s success.

1. Lone Ranger Syndrome.  When an Executive Director has the need to control everything, they can quickly find themselves alone.  Often, their thinking is “I can do this faster (or better) myself” and so they attempt to accomplish everything without help.

Better idea:  A good leader needs to engage others in the work of the organization.  A huge piece of this is to trust that others will get the job done, realizing that it may not be done they way he or she would do it.  Sometimes an Executive Director must give up control in order to get much-needed help.  It’s usually better to get things done and done good enough, rather than done and done perfectly.


2. Poor Expectations.  This mistake can cripple a relationship with a Board member, staff person, or volunteer.  In small organizations, it’s common for the Executive Director to expect that Board members will jump in to help with fundraising or will know what their responsibilities are.  The truth is that many well-meaning Board members don’t have a clue what they can do to help or what their responsibilities are.

Better idea:  A good leader is clear with others about what their job is and comes to agreement with others about desired outcomes.  Written job descriptions can be key here!  When everyone is clear about what they are supposed to do, there will be much less frustration and more positive outcomes.


3.  Majoring in the Minors.  Too often, leaders focus on things that are unimportant in the grand scheme of things.  With time being an Executive Director’s most precious resource, cannot afford to spend time on things that don’t move the organization forward.

Better idea:  A good leader focuses on the things only he or she can do and delegates the rest.  Executive Directors need to be thinking about the future, watching the bottom line, and making sure all operational activities fulfill the mission, not picking out office supplies or choosing napkin colors.


The first step in correcting any of these mistakes is to notice them.  Only then can you do something about them.

Becoming the leader that your nonprofit needs is a journey. It won’t happen overnight.

Avoid these 3 critical fundraising mistakes and you’ll be on your way.

By |2022-03-09T16:51:28+00:00January 7th, 2010|Leadership|0 Comments

About the Author:

Sandy shows Founders and leaders of small nonprofits how to fully fund their big vision so they can spend their time changing lives instead of worrying about money. She has helped dozens of small nonprofits go from “nickel-and-dime fundraising” to mastering donor-based fundraising, inspiring their donors to give often and give big.   Learn how to raise the money you need to fund your new nonprofit without begging, doing without, or paying out of your own pocket.   Click here to download our free ebook Fund Your Dream.

No Comments

  1. […] from:  3 Critical Mistakes Made by Executive Directors tags: board, critical, executive, senior-defense, spring, starring-on-nbc, strong-leader, […]

Leave A Comment

Go to Top