Fundraising--It's All Of A Piece

Labor Day Weekend.  Hard to believe that the summer is almost over—and all those things I was going to do during the “slow time” never did get done.  It never did get slow, either.  But partially that was my fault;  I left too many things to the last minute. It’s a challenge to do things as they come up rather than just before they are due.  Of course, coming up against a deadline isn’t always a bad way to be extraordinarily efficient.  It’s when there is no real deadline that things get harder.

You should identify at least three new major gift prospects a month, but well, heck, if you don’t this month there is always another.  And you should get caught up on all your call reports, set follow up steps for the people you did meet with, visit one on one with board members.  But, well, busy busy and all that.

And you are busy.  There is always too much to do.  And if you do identify those three new prospects you will have to develop a strategy for cultivating them, and then you will have to ask, and that takes so much time away from….what?  Entering names in the database?  Important but perhaps not for the director of development.  Picking the typeface for the direct mail appeal?  Well, ditto.  In fact, that might not be terribly important at all.

But I don’t want to nag.  I do want to remind you (and myself) about the importance of goals (large, lofty, not measured or tangible) and objectives (narrow, specific and very measurable and tangible).

For anyone responsible for development in a nonprofit, your goal is fundraising.  It may even go so far as fundraising a specific amount (which, yes, technically—you can measure if you got there).  Your objectives speak to the matter of what you have to do to raise those funds.  Identify so many new prospects,  cultivate and/or steward so many more prospects and donors, make some specific asks for gifts.

Once you know the what, you can begin to develop the how.  HOW will you identify—what specific steps will you take? What are the ways you will cultivate and which of these can also be used for stewardship?

In other words, you go from the wish of what you will do (raise money) to breaking it down into actions to drilling even further down into the very specific steps you must take to get there.

For those of you who write grants, this is familiar territory.  These are important components of each and every grant.  And that points to the synergies found throughout fundraising.  It is not built upon random acts.  Thing of it ask interlocking circles:

So as I look at some (not all, alas) of the things I wanted to do this summer, then look at those things I did do, I realize that some steps for the former have been completed in the latter, and I am further along on many things than I originally thought.

Spend the first few weeks of September looking at your fundraising plan (not the one that prettily shows the different types of fundraising—the one that breaks things down into steps or moves by who, by when) and see how much in one area actually also worked another.  And then build out this coming year’s plan by thinking out your goals, objectives and then the activities or specific steps to get you there.  And while you’re doing that—consider how many objectives you might be able to tie together and how many steps can be used for multiple purposes.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits and educational organizations, helping them to maximize their resources to increase fundraising capacity.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for her free monthly newsletter.