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VOL. 127 | NO. 190 | Friday, September 28, 2012

Pearl and Mel Shaw

Be Realistic in Fundraising Forecast

By Mel and Pearl Shaw

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Part two of a two-part series. How do you report that your nonprofit has not met its fundraising goal? Do you extend your campaign? Lay off employees? Close programs? Do more with less? Do you simply stop talking about the campaign and hope no one will ask about it?

Grappling with these questions and finding ways to answer them is part of doing business as a nonprofit organization or institution. Knowing where the money will come from is vital to ensuring consistent operations and to implementing growth strategies, increasing impact, or financing new ventures.

Our last column discussed the University of Virginia’s $3 billion capital campaign. As you may recall they have extended their campaign and are seeking to raise the last $240 million by the spring. Obviously UVa is in a unique position – very few organizations or institutions can forecast their ability to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in less than a year. But, regardless of the amount, realistically forecasting your fundraising is part of nonprofit management.

At the heart of the matter is the question, “how do you know that you can raise the money you need?” And stepping backwards, “how did you come up with your fundraising goal in the first place?”

Our experience has shown that fundraising campaigns require a significant period of planning prior to campaign launch. Here’s a short version of the long list of typical pre-campaign activities. Determine fundraising priorities (how the funds will be used); develop case for support and test among potential donors and influencers via market research (“feasibility study”); revise case (including campaign financial goal) based on results of research; identify potential donors and the amount each could give; create campaign plan; solicit and engage campaign leadership; raise 40 percent to 60 percent of campaign goal prior to “going public … .”

The amount of work can appear overwhelming. But, it is better to know what really goes into fundraising than to build an internal consensus that “we can do it” without knowing two important things: how the philanthropic market responds to your case, and the amount of fundraising capacity and infrastructure required to support your campaign.

When you find you have challenges in meeting your fundraising goal you are experiencing “campaign stall.” It’s not unusual. It occurs within many campaigns and is typically a time to review the campaign plan, reassess strategies, and huddle with campaign leadership. It’s time to see which components of the plan were implemented, which were modified and which were either consciously scrapped or unconsciously overlooked.

In the case for UVa they are rethinking the focus for the balance of their campaign, and looking to increase annual giving. How exactly do you plan to meet your fundraising goal, and what will you do if you are not on target to meet your plan?

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They provide fundraising counsel locally and nationwide. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

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