With competition for donors and charitable dollars at an all-time high, and the economy still keeping many donors on the sidelines, it’s more important than ever to focus on getting things right.

These 63 fatal fundraising mistakes can have significant negative impacts on your fundraising results (both short and long-term).

If you’re like me, you’ll probably find a half dozen (or more) that sound very familiar. The good news is that once you identify the potential mistakes you can figure out how to avoid them (or how to recover if by chance you’ve already made a mistake or two).


  1. Not having a strategic plan
  2. Focusing too much on the process and not enough on the outcomes
  3. Assuming that your organization deserves support from anyone
  4. Not maintaining up-to-date policies and procedures manuals
  5. Refusing to integrate fundraising channels
  6. Not having a development plan
  7. Assuming cheap = good
  8. Thinking your desk is where you belong all day
  9. Assuming expensive = good
  10. Not being serious about your website and digital fundraising strategy
  11. Not measuring results
  12. Overlooking volunteers and GIK donors
  13. Believing it’s about you
  14. Assuming you know what your donors think or want
  15. Not measuring the right results
  16. Asking the wrong people
  17. Expecting your board members to know what to do without any formal training or support
  18. Asking for too little
  19. Allowing any one revenue line to provide more than 40% of your total revenue
  20. Not capturing the right data
  21. Asking for too much
  22. Not paying attention to planned giving opportunities
  23. Assuming your brand is critical to your fundraising results
  24. Using generic ask amounts
  25. Refusing to use a fundraising tactic because you don’t personally like it
  26. Not talking to your donors frequently enough
  27. Asking your board to do the wrong things
  28. Loading major gift officers up with non-revenue producing responsibilities
  29. Thinking you’ve got all the answers
  30. Having a poorly developed case for support (or none at all)
  31. Not investing in staff development
  32. Asking at the wrong time
  33. Not using personalization in your direct mail, e-mail and newsletters
  34. Believing your job is all about money
  35. Assuming donors don’t cross channels
  36. Writing internally-focused newsletters and appeal letters
  37. Not establishing term limits for your board
  38. Investing too little in donor acquisition
  39. Not investing in donor acquisition at all
  40. Rushing an ask
  41. Taking major donors out of your communication stream
  42. Having a poorly designed online donation page
  43. Not strategically engaging your board
  44. Focusing more on your creative than your audience or offer
  45. Not allowing your staff to learn by making mistakes
  46. Shifting your direct mail budget entirely to digital or social media
  47. Assuming social media can raise significant revenue for your organization
  48. Not maintaining strict integrity of your database
  49. Using generic thank you letter copy
  50. Making decisions based on how you feel instead of following the results
  51. Not segmenting
  52. Using facts and figures instead of emotion and stories to sell your mission
  53. Not clearly articulating board roles, responsibilities and expectations during the interview process
  54. Believing donors exist to support your organization
  55. Protecting your clients by refusing to tell their stories to the public
  56. Assuming your job is to educate donors about all you do
  57. Not returning donor calls and e-mails in a timely manner
  58. Disregarding a donor’s request or intentions
  59. Thinking it’s ok to get a thank you letter out 5-7 days after you receive a gift
  60. Not celebrating your staff’s wins
  61. Never seeking outside counsel
  62. Relying too heavily on special events
  63. Not holding staff responsible for their actions, attitudes and results



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