Fantasy Fundraising

I have this theory: If every nonprofit would have a written development plan--which was created in some part to meet the needs of a written strategic plan, which was supplemented with a one-year work plan--and if there was a commitment to actually work the plan, there would be fewer nonprofits in danger of closing their doors. There would, I fantasize, be more healthy public charities. I fantasize not so much about the more healthy organizations but, rather, about them having a written plan and then actually working that plan.

Much of my work is focused on helping nonprofits develop and implement such a plan. I am, alas, more successful at this than they are at consistently following the plan, keeping up with the implementation.

There are always reasons. The this or the that -- all of which takes precedence over fundraising. Why is that? Honestly, what could be more important to the people charged with raising money than...well, raising money?

Of course, the this and the that often are things that are supposed to raise money, but the focus is so often on the wrong things. Who cares what the centerpiece looks like, the font of the invitation, the color of the tablecloths or, frankly, the meal?

If not the gala, it's a grant or a board meeting, or any number of things except actually raising the money that is so needed.

What I find really scary--almost frightening--is the number of nonprofits that (a) have no clue how much money they should be raising and (b) beyond "the gap"--the difference between what it costs to run the nonprofit and the revenue that comes in--there is no clarity of why they are raising these funds.

Knowing how much you should raise goes back to that strategic plan which, to be effective, needs to come with price tag attached. To get to that price-tag, of course, one would need to do a budget that takes into account both direct and indirect costs. And while expense is key here, it would be wise to have the revenue side figured out, also.

Doing good is great, but doing well is critical in order that you can do good. And to do both, you must commit to creating a pathway to guide you through. You must know what your vision is, what steps you need to take to reach that vision. You have to know the things that support your vision as well as those that challenge them.

Ad then, day by day, you must do the things that will move you up that pathway to the clearing that we all call success.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising capacity and create stronger, more engaged boards.  Learn more at or email and find out how she can help your organization raise more money.