Remodel, Re-ignite, Raise More Money!

Next door, the gardener is mowing and blowing my neighbor’s lawn.  Makes me happy that we decided to hardscape—grass in a desert (which southern California really is) seems so wasteful.  So I sweep my lawn and feel superior. Another plus is the fact that I have two large dogs.  With grass, I was vacuuming daily—and that was barely keeping it to a dull roar.  Now they have a large dirt area under our weeping willow in back, and I have to vacuum far less.

There is, of course, a point to all this.  When we remodeled our house and landscaped our yards, we thought a lot about how we live, how we wanted to live, and what was important to us. We also considered the future—we’re both in our 60s; what concerns do we have as we age; what do we need to be mindful of should we have to sell?  Thinking through all those things made the results of our remodeling really positive.  It allowed us to consider what we wanted to keep about our house and what really needed changing.

It’s this kind of thinking things through that nonprofits need to do on a regular basis.  I work with too many organizations whose boards are the boards they have always had—even if the people on the boards change.  And they continue to raise (or not to raise) funds in exactly the same ways.

Sometimes that works.  My sister, who has moved many times in her life, seems always to buy the same house, just in a different location.  And her furniture is always reminiscent of the last place.  That’s how she likes it—and for her, that is comfortable.

But for most of us, situations change.  We need to be clear-eyed enough to recognize those changes and to incorporate them positively in our world.  So several of my clients, who had successfully raised what they needed through robust annual giving campaigns found that the economic downturn really created havoc for them, their clients and their future.

They recognized that they could no longer coast on what had been successful.  They needed to retool.  That didn’t mean abandoning their annual giving.  It did mean thinking about other sources of revenue and other fundraising techniques.

Agencies that depended entirely on grants are finding this a very hard row to hoe, and are looking for additional ways to fund their mission.  And in doing so, some are even rethinking that.  Are we doing what we believe is necessary now?  Or are we only continuing to do what we’ve been doing because, well, it’s what we do?

As the proverbial dog days of summer wind down, it’s a good time for you and your organization to consider the direction you are heading.  As you consider your organizational remodel, you may re-discover (as I did with my house) a re-ignition of your passion, a cleaning out of the cobwebs, and a new energy for it all.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits and educational organizations, helping them to clear away their cobwebs, reignite their fire and energize their fundraising capacity.  Learn more at