Not Another Brilliant Idea

She has more ideas than anyone I’ve ever met, even though “she” is many different people at many different organizations with whom I’ve worked.  There is always another idea, another notion of what could be done to raise awareness, money, increase enrollments…whatever.  And mostly, they are good ideas.  The problem is that she is so busy generating new ones, she never—ever—implements the ones she’s already talked about.  And so, nothing gets done. “You need a plan,” I say to every idea.  “And you need to work that plan.”

It’s true.  For fundraising especially, it is better to consistently work a mediocre plan than to flit around from one instance of brilliance to another.  Boring it may be to send out two appeals a year; 4 newsletters; and meet with 3 prospective donors every week, but if you do that, you will get far more results than if you come up with a dazzling new way to raise money.

And really—what is that dazzling new way?  An online presence?  It’s just a different delivery method.  Recurring gifts—which I love, but hey, it’s the way someone gives, not the reason they are giving.  A gorgeous event.  Oh, sigh.

So let me be clear.  Fundraising takes time. And dependability.  Donors want to know that they can rely on you.

So before you consider yet another new idea, get down what you are already doing, and visually she when you are doing it.  Now consider what else you need to be doing Is it grants you keep meaning to research and write?  Companies you have intended to call on? Do you need to ask more people to give?

Whatever it is, make sure you are considering all aspects of what you need to do.  For example, if you want to identify 10 new major donor prospects, what steps will you have to take in order to do that?  Perhaps it means you must meet with board members to find out what doors they can and will open.  Great.  So, how many meetings do you need to have with board members each month?  And then, how many prospects will you need to contact before you actually get a meeting?

Once you have identified what needs to be done, write it down, and decide what would be a reasonable measurement to keep yourself on track.  Then put it on a calendar. What are you doing in January, February, etc?  Then get more granular and break it down into weeks, days.

And then, stubbornly, religiously, work your plan.  If you get off track, pull yourself back.  If you get another great idea—write it down.  And then go back to working your plan.

The more you work it, the more success you will have.  And here’s another bonus—it will all get easier to do.  And then you will have more time to look at that list of great ideas and add one of them to your fundraising mix.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to plan (and love their plans) and increase their fundraising capacity.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for her free newsletter.