The Continuing State of Philanthropy

Time-Tested Resolutions for a Good Year

In our last issue of Fund Raising Matters, we took measure of the unfolding turmoil in world financial markets. As we prepared the commentary last fall, we suggested that “Many will sit behind the desk and hide. Those who recognize their organization’s mission and services are even more critical today, will get back to doing the important work ahead.”

Fast forward to early 2009. Americans have opened year-end investment statements showing dramatic portfolio losses. The stock market continues to reel from rising unemployment and uncertain economic projections. Yet, some faint ray of light is visible at the end of this tunnel.

Many of our clients have reported that their annual results were above those of the previous year, and others move closer to achieving major gift campaign goals. Some did report declines, but not nearly as significant as feared.

In our recent conversations, we have found that the initial shock has worn off, and many nonprofit leaders have resolved to “get used to it” and move on to raise funds in the current environment. Finally, our new President was sworn into office with a call to action, public service, and a strong sense of goodwill toward working for our common goals.

In that spirit, we would like to offer several suggestions that may assist your efforts to get back to the important work of your nonprofit organization. In the post-holiday season, we have placed these suggestions in the form of new resolutions based on age-old adages:

1. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush: First, make sure you keep what you have before moving out to make new friends. Experience suggests major donors will continue to give, but they may focus their gifting on fewer organizations. This is the time to thank your donors; communicate with your friends; and share how effectively you utilized their prior support.

2. Out of sight, out of mind: Keep that which is important in direct view, or it may be forgotten or dismissed. We must keep our organization’s mission and work in plain view of our constituents. And we must focus our daily work on that which is most important rather than that which is most urgent.

3. What gets measured, gets done: The most effective way to increase (fill in the blank) _____ , is to first define and quantify the techniques leading to the desired results, then create a system to measure your performance. Quantify wherever and whenever possible and then celebrate all of the small successes.

4. Penny wise, pound foolish: Everyone loves to save money, but we must be certain not to cut back and neglect the larger picture of what matters most. A careful articulation of the actions and tactics required for sustainable fund-raising is required before cutting costs.

5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: Our market is rapidly changing and no one can concentrate on one strategy or resource. If your past roster of major donors is full of bankers, brokers, and auto manufacturers then this is the time to diversify your donor list.

6. Jack of all trades, master of none: Development professionals are required to be competent in many skills. But do we know how to bring these skills together in the most practical manner to affect positive change? We must endeavor to identify and focus on our strengths and spend more time on that which is most productive.

7. Experience is the best teacher: This is true in our personal life, but less so in corporate life where the same mistakes are too often repeated. Before organizations can improve, they must first learn and then push toward innovation and new experiences.

8. A job worth doing is worth doing well: If the future includes new strategies and new actions, then make certain that each is done well and with adequate resources or the opportunity for success will pass you by.

9. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade: As current events have made all too clear, these are both challenging and remarkable times. We fear that nonprofit executives who sit back to see how these events unfold may be making a mistake. For the resolute, crisis brings the clarity to do things in new ways. True innovation comes when we are able to take a fresh look at what we do and how we do it.


Click here to download PDF version of FRM52