Planning Ahead

Every month, a session of my 4 online classes offered through Ed2Go launches.  Each class is made up of 12 lessons, which are meant to be studied over a 6 week period.  And every session, at least one student—often more—spends one night and rushes through three to twelve of the lessons.

I wish they wouldn’t do that.

Inevitably, they focus just on the lesson they are reading now, and don’t see it as a part of a larger picture.  And almost always, they misunderstand, misinterpret, misread something in an earlier lesson that clouds what they might have learned in later ones.

I see this a lot in the way organizations fundraise (and market).  Instead of thinking long term, they focus right on now.  That means that they are not seeing how the things they do to raise money and awareness could build upon each other, creating a stronger whole.

We spend six weeks gearing up for a direct response appeal…and then that is done, and we are on to the gala or the golf tournament.  When we do have face to face meetings, we don’t visualize the entire arc of the relationship but think of each meeting as an entity in itself.  And certainly not as part of a larger plan.

Most insidious of all, when someone makes a gift and send out that thank you letter, we think this transaction is done, over, finished.  And too often, that becomes the case.  The donor, feeling unloved and unfulfilled, moves on to support another organization. Or to simply keep their generosity much closer to home.

Students in my classes who concentrate on one lesson, then come to the discussion to ask questions, read the postings of others, and ponder how what they learned connects with what they learned before and might impact what is coming next, have a much richer experience.

Organizations that see fundraising and marketing in a holistic way, also have richer (often literally) experiences with what they do.

Good planning starts with an understanding of where you are.  How are you fundraising or marketing?  Who are you reaching out to?  And what are the results?  I think it is also helpful to consider what you are leaving on the table because of what you are not doing.

Then think about where you want or need to be.  Often my clients become clients because they have been deficit fundraising for a long time. Instead of planning for where they want to be, they scramble about trying to fill a hole—ignoring the fact that what immediately surrounds that hole probably isn’t enough to fill it.

Now that you know where you are and where you want to go, our job is to create that roadmap that will get you there in the most effective and efficient way.

Good road trips first consider the entire map:  from point A to point Z, there are many paths.  Which ones are we going to use?  How can one stop serve more than one purpose?  And, as we travel from spot to spot, how can we preserve memories?
Preserving memories is to travel what stewardship is to fundraising—a way to prolong the pleasure, and keep the connection strong.

Planning your fundraising means planning it all—from identifying and qualifying your donors, to keeping them close and wanting to be re-identified for that next gift.  Walk carefully through every step and always be looking both backward and forward.  In this way, you will create a world of support for the important work you do.


Janet Levine helps nonprofits move from mired to inspired.  Learn how at  While there, sign up for the newsletter and do connect with Janet to get a free 30-minute consultation.


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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