“Let’s Put On A Show!”

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    During a board meeting, many years ago, an influential and highly respected trustee declared, “What we need is more endowment. We ought to have a $20 million endowment campaign.” Being a trustee of influence and affluence, all heads nodded in agreement with him.

    Hearing that declaration made with no justification, and no warning, I was in no position, as Director of Development, to show any reaction as to whether we could and/or should raise that large an amount.

    My emotions were another thing … as I groaned, inwardly, and said to myself, “Oh no!”

    But it was to be, “Yes!” The suggestion was made, after all, by a trustee that no one was going to question. So, off we went: Big Goal, No Plan.

    That experience brought to mind those great old movies with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. The ones in which the “kids” had a money-raising dilemma that perplexed them. Then, Mickey would light up with youthful exuberance and optimism. He’d turn to Judy, and say, “I know, let’s put on a show! We can do it!”

    An hour and a half later, after a liberal dose of movie magic, they’ve put on a production worthy of Broadway, the problem is solved, everybody has had a good time, and Mickey and Judy are in love.

    Shamefully, there are organizations that operate in much the same way. Faced with the dilemma of growing financial need outstripping static resources, officials of those nonprofits will turn to one another and say, “I know, let’s put on a new fundraising campaign! We can do it!” Another case of big goal, no plan.

    Unfortunately there is little movie magic in the non-profit world. Too often the campaign fails, the problem is still there, nobody has a good time, and love isn’t exactly what the campaign officials are feeling for one another.

    It’s not that fundraising campaigns aren’t the answer to financial need. In the end, where else is a non-profit organization to turn than to generous givers? The problem is that, unlike Mickey’s and Judy’s show, the current campaign isn’t the first or the only one the organization will put on. It has to fit into the context of an overall development plan.

    Today’s campaign, follows yesterday’s, and precedes tomorrow’s. The trick is to make sure that each and every one of an organization’s campaigns is successful. That’s the job of a general development plan.

    The general development plan identifies how and from what sources an organization will acquire and maximize contributed income. It communicates that information to the organization’s staff, volunteers and supporters. Specific fundraising campaigns are then planned and carried out in accord with the general development plan.

    The leadership of the organization, in concert with the development department, prioritize financial needs and agree to common fundraising goals. Within the context of the general development plan, they create an environment for achieving those goals and for planning, initiating, and producing annual, endowment, capital, sponsorship, and underwriting campaigns. Each type of campaign has key issues and components that an organization must understand when it considers implementing any one of them as a contributed income program.

    In summary: All fundraising campaigns must work from within a General Development Plan … a plan that comes from the initiatives (and their costs), as stated and directed by your organization’s Strategic/Long-Range Plan.

    Any fundraising campaign that is not in accord with the General Development Plan may make its goal, but it may also impede or damage other fundraising efforts … and relationships with donors.

    Have a question or comment about the above posting?
    You can Ask Tony.
    There is also a lot of good fundraising information on his website:
    Have you seen
    The Fundraising Series of ebooks ??


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