The Harsh Truth About Money

I’ve spent a lot of time talking to nonprofits over the past year about the 4Ms, and money is one of the biggies: the big need, the big solution, the big cause of anxiety.

When fundraising isn’t on track and the organization seems to be hurling toward the end of the year without a plan to get back in the black, it’s easy and understandable to experience some panic.

I’ve been there and it feels terrible. I’ve reacted with emergency direct mail pieces and urgent calls to funders. In my experience, these rarely work. And even when they do, they come with consequences to your long-term credibility.

Working through money challenges takes strategy, adaptability, and constant thought to both your fundraising  plan and the individuals who make up your development team.

And it means embracing one harsh truth.

Nobody owes you anything.

It’s hard for some to swallow, but it’s absolutely true.

Yes, your mission is important, and it’s clearly vitally important to the staff and board members who put their all into the organization everyday.

Yet for those on the outside, there are many other important organizations also appealing to them, explaining why they are the most important cause in town, and why they are in that special situation that calls for the big gift now.

The donors themselves have kids going to college and new credit card fees and car problems. They have many, many options on where to spend their money.

You must give them the reason not just to give to you, but to give to you instead of all of those other causes and situations fighting for their dollars.

We often think that if we could just get donors to understand our plight, our work, our impact, that surely they will give. But getting gifts takes more than explaining the work we do.

Because as important as it is, there are others out there that are also important, and that have their eyes set on the very same donors, putting together the same events to gather them, and using the same tactics to get the money out of them.

These donors are getting hit from all sides. They’re also getting savvy. It’s not just about impact anymore. It’s also about making sure that the money is spent through excellent stewardship.

This means it is up to you to prove both the impact of their dollars and the integrity with which they are spent. Every time.

How? By strutting your business stuff. By having clear goals and creating measurements that illustrate impact. By having systems in place that prove you spent their money in the way you promised. By running legally, efficiently and effectively.

Nobody owes you anything. But when you prove to donors that they should give their money to you because you spend it with integrity, with an eye toward specific goals, and with the most results, you up your odds of getting a gift not just now, but repeatedly into the future.

Now, go do good…and do it well.

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