5 Common Mistakes of Annual Giving Professionals

Posted on 03/04/2015

MistakesWhat does it take to have a successful career in annual giving?

For starters, you need to be goal-driven, creative, personable, analytical, flexible and committed. You need to be open to new ideas and willing to take risks. You also have to make decisions (lots of them) such as who to visit, when to send appeals, how to segment audiences, and which messages to communicate. In other words, you have to do a lot. With so much going on, it’s easy to slip up, get distracted, and misstep.

Here are five common mistakes made by annual giving professionals that can get between you and a long and successful career.

  1. They try to go it alone. It’s a team sport. Your colleagues, your bosses, and your volunteers will likely have as much (if not more) to do with your program’s success than you will. Know when to step up, when to delegate, and when to stay out of the way.
  2. They don’t use enough data. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” and “That’s what I assume” won’t get you very far in this business. Conduct surveys and focus groups. Study what other programs are doing. Test, don’t guess. If you can’t find any data to support an assumption, then that’s all it is – an assumption.
  3. They use too much data. If you’re spending more than 10% of your day staring at reports, then you need to find a better use of your time. Avoid analysis paralysis. Get out there and do something.
  4. They don’t focus on their current donors. Your best donor is the one you already have, so make sure that’s where you’re spending your time and resources. If fewer than 60% of last year’s donors don’t give again this year, then you have a problem.
  5. They get distracted by “shiny new objects.” It’s important to keep up with the latest trends and try new things, but don’t forget about the fundamentals. Crowdfunding, Giving Days, and Text to Pledge may be important, but they’re not silver bullets. Remember where the majority of your gifts and donors still come from.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It means you’re trying. One of the benefits of working in annual giving is that you get to make mistakes, learn from them, and start over fresh every 12 months.

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