What we need, the Board chair said, is a win. What you need, I responded, is a plan. I’ve been writing about development plans for the past few weeks—and will continue writing about developing one soon. But the other day, I new client told me that more than anything what she wanted was “a win.” Fundraising, folks, is not a contest to be won or lost. It is a process that takes time and effort. There is no one thing that will make your fundraising program a success. Rather it is an accretion of actions that will (eventually) result in success.
Success is not just bringing money in the door. That’s important, but actually not paramount. What is of critical importance is bringing supporters to the table. Creating a large pool of people and organizations who believe in what you do and how you do it and want to make an investment of their time and treasure.
Rather than looking for the one thing that will (in your dreams!) bring a windfall of money, consider what activities will engage your community, bring people closer, allow you to learn about their goals and dreams. Match those to the things you’ve identified as real needs. You have identified real needs, haven’t you?
That’s not a rhetorical question. So many of the nonprofits I talk with haven’t a clue what they need. They are simply—and poorly—looking for money. And while money certainly can buy important things, it can also blind you to the very real needs your organization, and more importantly, those you serve, require.
It’s not that I am advocating keeping money out of the equation—you must know what something will cost, how much is essential in order for you to do your work at the highest level. But chasing dollars will not get you where you need to go.
Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity. Learn more at http://janetlevineconsulting.com. While there, sign up for the free newsletter.