Fundraising Mis-connections and Mis-perceptions

I wrote this on Wednesday, October 31st, while I was still in PA– I was going to write “suffering from the storm,” but, really, that is too strong.  At any rate, I finally got back to LA on Saturday 11/3.  

I was supposed to fly out today, but Sandy changed my plans.  Now I’m here in Pennsylvania until Saturday night.  While there are a lot of downed trees and, more critically,  downed power lines, things are pretty comfortable at my sister’s.  We have some lights, the refrigerator and stove work and toilets flush.  What we don’t have is hot water or connectivity.  She can get and make phone calls on her cell, but I have no service at all.  For that I have to go miles away.  So you won’t be reading this on Thursday as I would have planned.

What is odd is the illogical logic I find myself practicing.  For example, the internet doesn’t work, so I can’t post—so I THINK I could email…oh no, I can’t email.  Ummm….

It’s that kind of mis-connections (and mis-perceptions) that often get us down.  We need to raise more money, so we decide that we should have another gala, ignoring the fact that we don’t have an honoree who can bring in lots of ticket sales. Or we’ll get a large gift for…ignoring the fact that we don’t have a donor who can give us a gift of that size.  Or, more prosaically, a lot of organizations, upon realizing that they need to have a donor tracking system opt to purchase the best of the best.  Which is often a great strategy.  But maybe you don’t need the best, you just need something good enough.  And probably you can support the best—financially, hardware-wise, personnel-wise.  But you can get something that neatly fits your needs and your resouces.

Too often, we focus on what we want to get rather than considering what we reasonably can accomplish.  And because of that, we often miss opportunities.

Oftentimes, if you consider what assets are available, and then think how they can be deployed most effectively, sometimes you can come up with brilliant new (to you) ideas.  Or confirm that what you are doing makes the most sense at this time, with these resources.

In addition to considering what assets you have, thinking about where you want to end up  can be a useful exercise.  Right.  I know you want to raise more money—but I’m thinking more strategically than that.

Let’s take that donor tracking system.   If, when you are setting it, you consider what you want to get out of it, you will do a better job of  deciding what to put in it.  And, if you are realistic about your other resources, you will recognize, for example, that while it would be lovely to put in all kinds of biographical information, you may not have the personnel to conduct the necessary research.  Nor, might it matter so very much anyway if you know what high school your donor’s mother attended.

But stuck as I am, with no internet or cell phone reception, I’ve decided I should take advantage of the storm.  So now I’m turning off my computer, and picking up a book and will get a head start on catching up on my personal reading.


Janet Levine works with educational organizations and nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity and to build stronger, more effective boards.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for her free monthly newsletter.


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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