Nonprofit fundraising is a complex process, with stakeholders at many levels. From the C-suite to the development office, there are dozens of conflicting priorities, opinions, and personalities.

When funding expectations are not reached, the opinions and blame increases.  Development officers are often quick to blame themselves – and if they don’t someone else likely will. But the truth is, there are multiple factors inside an organization that affect fundraising.

It is unrealistic and unprofessional to blame one department or one person. A mature organization will adopt a holistic perspective by assessing the entire organization from the top down, whether things go well or go poorly.

If you work in development and you miss your funding goals, don’t simply blame yourself or your coworkers, there is more to consider:

Everything inside the organization affects fundraising. Things like the quality of the program/service. Recruitment process for board members. Loyalty strategies. Solicitation strategies. The way that the organization treats its customers, volunteers, and donors.

Everything outside the organization affects fundraising. Things like: Economy. 2008’s Great Recession. Corporate mergers. And so forth. 

Although you may “be in charge” of fundraising, it is ultimately a group effort, and the whole organization is responsible for the results. Yes, you are the coach guiding the fundraising process, but you are reliant on others participating and pulling their weight.

There is always an argument that an individual fundraiser’s results should be measured along with measuring the overall success of the fundraising effort. But an individual should not be held solely accountable for lackluster results when there are extenuating circumstances that caused the decline. How then, should fundraisers as individuals be evaluated? We believe that results should be measured on an individual basis, but any assessment of overall fundraising results should include an honest evaluation of how the supporting team players fulfilled their roles too.

Bad press because of an unfortunate incident in your charity, a new nonprofit that is doing a better job serving the community, a board member that didn’t follow through as promised, an executive director that didn’t make a donor visit as planned, and a destructive hurricane that halted mail delivery during your main fundraising season are all outside of a fundraiser’s control. Ultimately, achieving success is a group effort.