Cooking and Fundraising

If you, like me, watch the PBS show Endeavor, you know that the days of the week can be

defined by the sandwiches Mrs. Thursday makes for her husband’s lunch.  My mother was that kind of cook:  we had the same thing every Monday, every Tuesday, and so on.  Except for Fridays, when once a month we went to Joe Yee’s Chinese restaurant for our monthly meal out.

I’m not that kind of cook.  I like to try different things and don’t have anything resembling a standard repertoire.  Trying new recipes, however, usually means that I follow the instructions very closely.  Only after I’ve made the dish once do I think about replacements, tweaks, changes.

Successful fundraising is a lot like that.  Your recipe—your development plan—should be followed closely until you know from experience with your organizations, your donors, what things can be successfully changed.

Like recipe, your development plan should start with a list of ingredients—what ways we use to make the delicious dish.  Instead of 3 TBS of this and 1 cup of that, however, I look at who the target audience for a specific ingredient—the technique—is, when we do this, and how much we are aiming to raise.  I also like to consider cost so I know how much I am netting.

After that, I develop the specific steps for each of the techniques.  And, oftentimes, as in cooking, ingredients (techniques) are combined.  A gift club or giving circle, for example, may be mixed together with an annual appeal or as part of a house party.

Sometimes, just as I am finishing a dish, it becomes obvious that it is lacking something.  Then, based on my years of cooking experience, I can add a pinch of this, a pat of that.

Despite best efforts, however, sometimes a dish just doesn’t live up to expectations.  Then I have to decide if I ruthlessly toss that recipe or spend some time figuring out what I now need to do to make it better.  What matters is that I take the time to consider what the best option will be.

What I know is that not every recipe will sing.  Or it will resonate only with some of us.  Sometimes my husband loves a dish I cannot abide; sometimes he finds something boring that I declare delicious.  In those cases, we don’t throw the recipe away, but we only make it for the one who loves it.  Likewise, with a lot of your fundraising approaches.  I may never come to your event, but I may happily respond to your direct mail.  Figuring out which donor likes what is key for your success.

And yes, sometimes I cook without a recipe at all.  But again, it is based on experience, knowledge, and—mostly—what I have on hand.  Unless I plan my meals and shop accordingly, I am stuck with making do.  That can lead to an amazing dish.  But it can just as easily lead to an unfulfilling meal.

With planning, I can test an untried recipe with something I know we both like.  In that way, I can be confident that we won’t wilt from boredom, nor will we starve from an unpalatable dish.


Janet Levine Consulting can help you cook up a fantastic fundraising meal!  Check out our menu at    While there, sign up for the newsletter and do contact us for a free 30-minute consultation.