Doing It All, Just A Little Differently

Snow. Not what a southern California girl expects to see in the middle of April. But I’m here in Wisconsin and snow has greeted me. My LA winter wardrobe is not up to this, but as we all do when we do not have the needed resources, we make do. There is nothing wrong with making do; trying to accomplish more with less—all those mantras of the nonprofit world. But if it becomes debilitating, then it is a problem. As in:

  • We can’t afford to hire a development professional; we don’t have the money (duh, is the appropriate comment here)
  • We have to cut staff because we don’t have the money
  • We have to cut programs because ….

Well, you get the picture. Doing more with less too often becomes the reality of doing less with less, and that is a scenario where everybody loses.

When you get into that situation, the first thing to do is take a deep breath, and make a collective decision that this will not do. Note that I said “collective.”

Ideally, the entire organization would be behind it all. But for starters, just the leadership will do. And the first step that needs to be taken is a capacity review.

What are the resources you have to hand to raise revenue? That includes:

  • A strategic vision that is mission compatible and doable
  • Compelling programs (or at least a compelling way to frame them)
  • Human resources—people (staff and volunteer) who are willing and able to connect others to the organization
  • Clarity of goals and an understanding of how much it takes to do the work you need to do
  • A list of prospects and donors who will support you if asked
  • Other ways to bring in revenue (fees, tuition, investment income, fee for service, etc) that are market competitive
  • A work plan for getting all this done

Once you know what you have, you need to see if these resources are deployed in the most effective ways. If you have great programs, but the cost of running them is ruinous, you have a problem. A great database of prospects but no one is working them? Ditto. A team that could look to alternative sources of revenue without the go ahead from the Board to investigate and—more importantly—implement those ideas, is not doing your bottom line any good.

The real value of a capacity study, of course, is not just getting a baseline of what you have—it’s looking at what you have differently and thinking about new ways to solve your problems.

As you do that, you may discover that you actually don’t need to do more with less; you simply need to do what you need to do in a slightly different fashion.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity and build more engaged boards.  Learn how she can help you see things in a different way at or email her directly at