Imagine this: At an organization's board meeting, the Executive Director (ED) proudly announces that s/he has accepted a big check from the Playboy Foundation. For the organization's women's empowerment project. It was a long meeting, especially for the ED.
Or (imagine) this: You're visiting the website of a nonprofit whose board you've been asked to join. You can't figure out the organization's mission. The mission statement says one thing but the organization's programs offer something different. You phone a staff person to inquire about the discrepancy, and learn that the current programming is the result of a grant opportunity the organization didn't want to pass up.
These two nonprofits suffer from a common fundraising disorder that I call "making it up as you go along (MIUAYGA)." When so afflicted, an organization allows funding needs and/or opportunities to distort its mission and diminish its capacity to respond to the community needs that it exists to address.
Sometimes this condition occurs simply because staff and board get so bogged down in day-to-day stuff, they forget that good fundraising is proactive and strategic. For these folks, I have developed a tool - a rhyme - to remind them of things that often get overlooked but should be in place before they put a deposit down on the ballroom at the new hotel downtown.
Remember the song, "Dem Bones"? ("Oh, the toe bone's connected to the foot bone, the foot bone's connected to the ...") My rhyme can be sung to that tune. I call it "Dem Fundraisers." Here it is:
Once a year or so, the board should ask: Who and what?
What's the need, what's the mess we want to clean up?
Please note: It's not a need just 'cuz you say so
(Some data you must show.)
From the need you've found should flow your mission,
So big and long-term, it can feel like wishin'
From the mission flow goals and objectives - with ease -
(Not from some RFPs!)
From goals and objectives come the action steps:
When to break ground, and who plans, who trains, who schleps ...
After action steps, it's time to make a budget
(Be exact - don't fudge it!)
Now you know how much you need to raise and why:
Ten thousand bucks for computers your school must buy
To supply 20 low-income youth with tools they need
As students to succeed.
Next list who might give your group donations:
People, governments, foundations, corporations...
Now ... you can ask yourself how to raise the needed cash -
Grants, fees, or gala bash*?
Follow these steps; save yourself lots of trouble
No more planning fundraisers in a bubble
You might even see your revenue double
Your good work's more fundable!
* There are more choices available than the three mentioned in this rhyme. For example, also available are choices having to do with:
- source of support/revenue: e.g. individual donors, government, foundations, corporations,
earned income, etc.;
- type of relationship between the nonprofit and revenue source, e.g. donor acquisition,
retention, and upgrading, etc.; and
- support transfer mechanisms, e.g. grants, contracts, sponsorships, fees, responses to direct
mail, events, etc.
This post is about what your organization should do before it plans its fundraising activities. As for how to plan fundraising, well, that's a topic for another post.