The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently reported that charitable giving in 2018 to the 100 largest American charities skyrocketed by 11% over 2017 figures. This report seems to be at odds with a report earlier this year (also by the Chronicle) that overall giving in 2018 declined by 1.8% over the previous year. How can this be? One group of charities seems to be thriving, while many others are experiencing mild declines in their donor support.

Here’s the answer: America’s most successful charities do things differently than everyone else. They invest more resources in staff. They work relentlessly to build their brand. They’re always on the lookout for high powered volunteers to help raise funds. They spend significant time building a plan and then working the plan. They research fundraising best practices and they implement those practices. In short, they take their fundraising prowess to another level.

So, what can small to mid-sized nonprofits learn from the big boys? They should do as much of the above as possible, with intention, and with a unified Board and staff. All the characteristics of successful nonprofits are replicated in organized capital or advancement campaigns. Campaigns build brand, recruit new leaders, work with a well thought out plan, and focus relentlessly on a goal. You don’t have to be the Mayo Clinic, the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross or the Boys and Girls Club of America (all which fall in the top ten of America’s most successful charities when it comes to fundraising). You can also be wildly successful like many West Michigan nonprofits that have recently undertaken and completed big, successful campaigns. Groups like Kids Food Basket, Wedgwood Christian Services, D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s, Grand Rapids Community College, the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, the Kalamazoo Area Humane Society, Grace Bible College and many more.

If you’re struggling with fundraising, don’t fret. Think about your next big project or your immediate vision for improving our community. Get buy-in from your key leaders, build a plan (maybe within the context of a campaign), and get after it. Others are raising money successfully and having double digit growth year over year. It can be done…but it all starts with you and your team.