Fundraising is a tremendously complex, challenging job.


You have this precious gift to give to the world-your fundraising talents! How to help people recognize your gift?

But you know that. That is why you’re here.

You’re looking around, trying to learn how to do it better. After 10 years in this field, I have to say, there’s still always something new to learn.

When you’re at a fundraising job, no matter what your title, your job can encompass everything from getting sponsorships, to running events, to getting grants, to writing appeal letters, to entering donations, to making sure your boss signs the thank you notes. to writing newsletters, on and on and on.

Not only do you have to get it all done, but you have to do it with a smile, and at least pretend to be an extrovert for parts of your job. If you’re not an extrovert, but are an introvert working in fundraising, here’s a post for you.

Here are 14 problems that only fundraisers understand.

1. The fundraising treadmill: AKA Just Double It. You raised $100,000 last year, now raise $200,000 this year, with no increased budget. More on the treadmill here.

2. 10 people’s jobs. One person’s hands. You’re the events coordinator, the grants manager, you write appeals, you enter donations, you might even sit at the front desk if need be. How do you prioritize? How do you get it all done? Well, a lot of times it just doesn’t get done. But you stay late and do your best, anyway. More on how to prioritize, here. More on why you have 10 people’s jobs, here.

3. Lack of accountability to fundraise with board members: Board members don’t want to fundraise and this is somehow your problem-even though you can’t make them and you can’t tell them what to do. More on how to motivate board members

4. People expect you to just know how to do things: Board expects you to know fundraising inside out without ever taking a class or course. So you fake it til you make it. If you want to start learning more about how to fundraise, check out my shop. TONS of resources there, some for free too!

5. No system in place when you got there: Lack of systems (no database) from the previous person means it’s 3x as hard for you to figure out what’s been done, and to get stuff done. More on how to choose a database here.

6. No budget to create systems:  Lack of budget for creating systems (like a donor database) means it’s 3x as hard for you to get stuff done now.

7. Not encouraged to discover and stick with your strengths: Lack of adequate staffing means that you will be tasked with everything, even if you’re only good at a few things on a long laundry list of things to get done. More on solving this issue

8. Tendinitis from stuffing too many envelopes: A 5,000 piece mailing and 2 days to get the envelopes stuffed stamped and sorted. And taken to the post office. And weighed and put in flats! ARGH! More on how to get people to help you.

9.  Unrealistic expectations about grants: Board who thinks you can pull million dollar grants out of thin air and you just want to run away. Here’s what the deal is.

10. Help my donors are abandoning me! Donor attrition and no budget or time to stop it. More on how to keep donors here.

11. Lack of major donor strategy: Major donor society that it’s hard to get your boss to interface with or care about. Or you’re just expected to know how to raise major gifts-with no training! Check out Claire Axelrad’s blog for tips about major gifts.

12. No one is safe, no matter how good of a job they do: A boss who is demotivating staff so much that people are quitting and getting fired right and left, and you wonder if you’ll be next, for no other reason than the boss feels like firing someone. More on what to do about lack of security at work.

13. Communication breakdown: Communications staff don’t talk with the fundraising staff, or program staff don’t talk with you, even in a very small less than 20 person agency-getting stories out of them is like pulling teeth! How to get people to tell you stories? Check out Vanessa Chase’s blog, The Storytelling Nonprofit. She has resources for you!

14. No fundraising plan, which means no guidelines for you to succeed, no baselines or strategies for the coming year!  Just appeal letter deadlines? That is not a plan! More on how to create a fundraising plan here.

If you want 65 more fundraising career resources, just go here.

If you want 99 more nonprofit leadership resources, click on over here.