Developing Our New Product: the Takeaways

In developing our new product, Spark Time, which is an assessment and consultation to help nonprofits clarify their fundraising needs and sharpen their focus, we spoke with a number of nonprofit leaders about their challenges and needs. We’ve taken away three big themes from these conversations…

  1. Fundraising can be overwhelming. One Executive Director of a small nonprofit said, “My biggest fundraising challenge is figuring out what to spend time on.” This is especially true for smaller nonprofits that have one or two staff and no dedicated development staff. @@With limited time, where do you focus your energy to get the best return on investment?@@ There are many answers to this question. Probably almost as many as there are nonprofits in the world. Nonprofit leaders need help prioritizing their time spent on fundraising.
  2. Many fundraisers wish for more opportunities for professional development. In Underdeveloped, the report from CompassPoint and the Haas Foundation about the challenges facing nonprofit fundraising, @@one of the biggest reasons cited by development directors for the high turnover in the field is that organizations don’t invest in fundraising capacity, which includes professional development for fundraisers.@@ In our conversations, one Development Director said, “There’s no money in my budget for professional development.” At the same time, Underdeveloped reported that many executive directors are frustrated with the varied level of skill and experience among people who have held a Development Director title. Nonprofits need affordable, tailored ways to build their development staff skills.
  3. While most organizations have some basic fundraising strategies in place, they tend to focus less on relationship building and on cultivating a culture of philanthropy. Many nonprofit leaders complain that their boards are not active enough in fundraising. Others complain that they spend all their time writing grants that don’t get funded. These are symptoms of larger problems. Boards need a lot of support to become successful fundraisers. They need to feel deep engagement with and excitement for the organization’s mission so that they can be great advocates. Foundations need the same kind of connection. @@Without some relationship and deeper knowledge of an organization, there’s very little to entice a foundation program officer to advocate for an organization’s proposal.@@ Nonprofits need to focus on building relationships that create strong advocates for their organization and its mission to be successful in fundraising.

These themes played a big role in how we structured Spark Time. We want to help nonprofits succeed at fundraising without having to spend a lot of money.

Small organizations will benefit by understanding the immediate, short-term, and long-term steps they can take to advance their fundraising — solving the problem of being overwhelmed.

Larger organizations will have a tool to help their development teams build skills and plan for the future — solving the problem of lacking professional development.

@@All organizations will have a guide for where to focus their relationship building efforts@@ — solving the problem of not having strong advocates and relationships.

We’re excited for the potential this product has to help all kinds of organizations. Would this be a helpful resource for your organization? Share your greatest fundraising challenges in the comments section or by tweeting us @Spark_Point.

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