FUNdraising Good Times: What’s the Middle Ground: Negotiable Goal Setting

Part One of a Two Part Series – The new year’s tradition of goal setting extends to fundraising, beginning with a retrospective assessment. This is the time to ask what went well; what were our challenges; and what we could have done differently. The role you play will impact your assessment. For example, an executive director or CEO may see things differently from fundraising staff, and board members may have yet another assessment. Before dissolving into a fight for who’s right, we recommend taking time for a shared assessment so you can negotiate fundraising goals that can be met.

Executive director expectations. A nonprofit’s leadership can set unrealistic goals that are not based on reality. This means they are not based on an analysis of prior giving; the organization’s pool of prospective donors; board, volunteer and staff capacity and willingness to fundraise; local and national grantmaking and giving priorities; access to government funds; earned revenue potential; and more. We’ve met visionary leaders who believe a specific fundraising goal can be met without consulting their development staff, their board, nor their data. Some meet their goals, others cut costs mid-year in order to “make do” with funds available, and still others access reserve funds to make the numbers balance. This type of goal setting contributes towards a lack of trust and respect. It feeds a questioning of people’s abilities and understanding of fundraising and encourages blaming of others. Examples include CEOs believing their development/fundraising staff don’t want to fundraise or don’t know how to. This can be detected via statements such as “I can do it, why can’t they.” Development staff question the sanity of their CEO, wondering how he or she could expect an increase in funds raised from a dwindling pool of donors and prospects, especially when last year’s goal wasn’t met. This gets more confusing when one-time grants are included when calculating fundraising goals: if it’s a one time gift, you shouldn’t build it into your anticipated budget for the coming year; one-time grants or gifts are exactly that, one time.

Development staff expectations. Believe it or not, development staff expect to have a budget for marketing, a pool of prospects to work with, a data management system that provides meaningful data, and the full participation of board members and the CEO. They are often met with disbelief, as if asking for these basic requirements is a sign of their incompetence. A common cry from development directors working in small nonprofits is: how can you expect me to do six jobs? This individual is expected to market the organization including a powerful newsletter, growing a dynamic social media program, building an online giving program, writing grants and submitting grant reports, and engaging individual major donors. Oh, they are also asked to maintain all data systems and provide board training. When they do successfully support board members who go out and raise money from their peers, they are criticized for not doing anything: after all the board members are doing all the work.

Next week: how to reach a middle ground.

Copyright 2021 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Let us help you grow your fundraising in 2022. Call us at (901) 522-8727.

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