Almost seven years ago, a friend and I started this blog, calling it Too Busy To Fundraise because that was what we had been hearing from our fellow fundraisers for years. A few months into the blog, my friend truly became too busy to fundraise and moved on to other things. By then, I had proved to myself that I could make a living as a fundraising consultant, and so I kept on writing.
Over the years, while many of the tools of fundraising changed—certainly since I had started as a development professional in 1988—fundraising itself has remained remarkably the same.
- It is still all above relationships.
- It is still something that larger organizations do better than smaller ones
- It is still something that too many people find themselves too busy to do.
What I see with my clients—who tend to be those smaller nonprofits with one or maybe two fundraising staff—is that they are almost always too busy to do the up close and personal type of fundraising that brings in the larger gifts, but always have time to worry about the details of an event; the layout of a direct mail piece; ranting about how they have this or grant due (and why does every grant—even renewal grants—seem to take 4-6 week, 40 hours a week, to write?). In other words, they are busy busy busy doing all the least effective things, and too busy to tackle the very activities that will raise serious money.
The truth is that we find time to do the things we want to do. My friends tell me that they are too busy to go to the gym, something I have always found time to do. Not because I am better than they are, but because I actually LIKE the gym.
On the other hand, I rarely have the time to go to the movies or watch TV. I have limited interest in watching things, but infinite amounts of patience for reading. Again, it’s doing what I prefer. Which brings us back to fundraising.
Much of my consulting work is helping organizations to create a comprehensive development plan. I say “help” because I truly believe it has to be a collaborative effort where all those who need to be involved—staff, volunteers—are realistic about what they will do.
And while I can tell you that I believe that fundraising is fundraising, regardless of the cause or organization, the specifics of each fundraising plan are distinct and often very different.
One of my “musts” is that we design a plan that staff and volunteers will actually engage with. To say that we will focus on high wealth individuals and meet with them one on one to ask for seriously major gifts may feel good, but if your organization’s history show that a large gift is $250, and you have no high wealth individuals in your database, this is not a realistic plan.
So first, a realistic plan to meet realistic goals. And then—and this seems to be the hard part—a commitment to consistently work that plan.
If you have to be too busy to do something, make it something outside of your fundraising plan of action. Be too busy to worry about font on a gala invitation because you are too focused on getting the right people there—and developing strategies for what you are doing with those right people after the event.
Be too busy to keep beating your head against the wall telling board members to bring in 5 names of major donors, and meet with them one on one to determine how they can help raise funds for your organization.
Focus on things that will not only bring in dollars but will help to create sustainable supporters. And while you are at it—stop complaining about how busy you are. You’ll find that you will truly free up several hours a week where you could actually be….yes! Fundraising.
Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to not be too busy to increase their fundraising capacity. Learn how she can help your organization at www.janetlevineonsulting.com or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org