Fundraising--some pain, mostly gain

As many of you know, I have three largish, long-haired dogs.  That means, among other things, that every day—every single day—I vacuum, not just the floor but the furniture also (OK, so it’s clear who rules in my house!).  Once I week, I move all the furniture to vacuum seriously and mop all the floors.  Trust me, there are things I would rather be doing, but it is a price I am willing to pay to have the level of cleanliness I need and the dogs I want Yes, yes.  I know I could hire someone else to do this, but that is not the point.  The point is that I figured out what I am willing to do in order to get what I want.  This is something that all nonprofits need to focus on.

Generally, I am hired because there is a strong understanding that fundraising capacity needs to be increased.  During the contracting process, I make it clear—and they say they understand—that I don’t increase their fundraising, that is their job.  What I do is help them to define how best to do that and to encourage (ok, nag) them to do the things they need to do.

So we start the process. Too often, usually when we get to the point where they must take action, everything comes to a halt.  They’ve been too busy to do what they were supposed to do; too busy to take the next step; too busy to even schedule a meeting.

I’ve actually have clients tell me that revenue streams are drying up alarmingly—so they don’t have time to focus on fundraising and that will have to be put on a back burner.  And here I thought fundraising was a revenue stream, one that could help to put things back on track.

When we do finally get together for a conversation about next steps—and I am nothing if not persistent, so it generally doesn’t take all that long—what is very clear is the fact that they know what they want (robust fundraising) but there is no commitment to doing what they need to do.  The various and many fears of fundraising get in the way of doing the thing they must do so the mission of the organization can be maintained or grown.

Those that persevere—and most of my clients do, albeit often in stumbling start and stop fashion—usually reach a point where they realize that by doing they have created a habit, and really, it’s not so bad.  Good, even, when the money starts to come in and their donors continue to support them, becoming loyal and committed contributors who make asking something positive.

It’s like my vacuuming:  momentarily painful, but once it is done, and the house is clean and my dogs are making me laugh, I don’t mind knowing that tomorrow I’ll be doing it all again.

Janet Levine is a consultant, working with nonprofits to help them increase their fundraising capacity and develop stronger, more effective Boards.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for the free monthly newsletter.