Clarity and Fundraising

My husband and I have been working in the yard, preparing various areas for planting.  Our soil is both sandy and rocky and it is the latter that we are trying to correct.  He digs and tosses shovelfuls onto a screen.  I sift, letting the dirt fall to the ground.  Rocks go in one pile—we’re using them for decorative accent—debris in another.  It’s hard, backbreaking (OK, hurting) work, but for me, the real difficulty is in the sorting.

It’s not always clear what is a rock and what’s debris.  Broken rocks sometimes look like pieces of stucco; tar masquerades as dirt.  And what to do with brick?  I like the red contrast on the mostly grey rock, so sometimes I keep it; other times I toss.

My husband says it is no big deal. In this case, there truly is no right or wrong.  And usually, I have no problem making a decision.  But sometimes I think that perhaps I chose incorrectly:  that rock is too ugly, perhaps I should have held on to that thing I blithely tossed into the debris.

This is not earth-shattering stuff, but I do notice that when I am in doubt, I slow down.  I suspect my choices get ever more random.  Worse.  I find I really don’t want to be doing this anymore.

I find this is true in my day-to-day life.  The less clear I am about what I need to do, the less happy I am.  The more I get stuck.  The harder it gets to make good decisions.

Am I singing your song?

Not a few of my clients find themselves in this difficult spot.  There is this sense that they need to fundraise, but there is absolutely no clarity about how much they need to raise, for what purposes and, perhaps most insidiously, how they should be going about raising those funds.

Too many organizations think of fundraising as grants, events, mass annual appeals.  And there is nothing wrong with any of these—as a part of a robust and comprehensive development program.

I use the word “development” here carefully.  Money in hand is important.  I don’t want to belittle its value in any way, shape or form.  However, it is not the only important part of raising funds.  Developing relationships, where there is an ongoing  connection and donors are not just asked for gifts but shown—clearly—what their money supports, is vital.

Having clarity about your direction, along with a shared vision of what your organization is and should be, will deep everyone involved moving forward at an appropriate speed.

Lacking this clarity, your organization is liable to become on the many who find themselves stuck on start.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits and educational organizations, helping to ensure that they are NOT stuck on start.  She works with her clients to increase fundraising capacity by helping them to build better boards and to have a clear roadmap on how best to reach their fundraising goals.  Learn more at


About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
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