Fundraising's Cart and Horse

Fundraising's Cart and Horse

May 09, 2013 by jga_admin

by Andy Canada


Ever heard the phrase “Don’t put the cart before the horse”? Growing up I certainly heard that my fair share of times. It usually came from my dad when I was worrying about something that might or might not happen or if I was trying to cut corners on a specific project he had me working on.

As with many things your parents tell you when you are growing up, the words were probably not fully appreciated at the time. But as I have gotten older and hopefully wiser, I have learned to appreciate that there are things in life that you just can’t rush and that have to be done in the right sequence to truly be effective.

Growing a strong foundation for your development program and working on a capital campaign are two of those things that have to be done in the right order. You can’t jump to step Z just because it is more fun or might give you a short term impact.

We work with clients that are all at different stages of growing their fundraising. Some are very sophisticated and have a track record of successfully completed capital campaigns and others are just starting or re-starting a development program.

However, the same message has to be reinforced to both – Stay on task and follow the plan that you have established. It is sometimes easy to want to skip a step but you have to have a strong foundation to truly build a solid program.

Plans can always be accelerated based on hitting key benchmarks and completing assigned tasks, but you can’t cut corners and jump over key steps.

Every plan is different but an example could be not having a stewardship program operational before soliciting gifts. You might receive a short term result but it could damage the organization in the future. So you might have donors that want to support your program, but if you don’t have a way to properly thank them then will they give again?

Another example is moving too quickly to publicly announce a campaign goal. The announcement might provide you with some positive publicity, but if you launch too soon can you maintain that momentum and do you have the capacity to ensure that you can reach your goal?

Follow your plan and the benchmarks that you have set for yourself. Make sure that the leadership and your volunteers are part of putting the plan together so they have buy-in and understand the reason for the sequential process. Update key audiences regularly about the progress and when critical next steps that will be taken.

Building a strong program takes time and a steady hand. You want to be able to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves, but you also want to stay on track and ensure you are keeping your eye on the ultimate goal – growing your organization and establishing a strong foundation to ensure it continues to grow for years to come.