I think it is a couple of high-level obstacles. Fear of the unknown is certainly one; fear of failure is another.

Fear of the Unknown

Let’s break it down. One of the things many not-for-profit leaders struggle with is understanding what is actually involved in donor acquisition. For instance, there is the time it takes to acquire a donor, the cost of acquisition, and the success rate, to name a few. Add those up, and many decide it’s an insurmountable task. The challenge of course is that without a sustainable acquisition strategy you are hoping that your organic acquisition rate exceeds your attrition rate. Unfortunately for many charities this isn’t the case.

Fear of Failure

There are many volumes written on failing forward – the concept that you can’t afford not to fail in trying to grow and innovate – and I won’t repeat those ideas here. Let’s just quote Einstein yet again on the definition of insanity, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If you want a different result, you have to be willing to try something new.

The Way Forward

The answer is to right-size your approach, count the cost ahead of time, and then measure the results – what is working and what is not. Make no mistake, it does take effort, money, perseverance and vision to see it through to success, but it is so worth it!

How do you right-size your strategy? There are rules of thumb and approaches for different fundraising channels based on both expected return and time to profitability. Events look different than a direct mail or digital acquisition strategy, but finding an appropriate percentage of your overall fundraising budget to direct to acquisition and then choosing which channels make sense for your organization is the best way to start.

As with any new projects, understanding and mitigating risks means that even if your first few attempts are just learning, you haven’t put anything at risk programmatically to do what is necessary for the future of your organization. In my experience, there is always a win with an intelligent foray into spreading the story of the great work you are doing.