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Fundraising Confessions from a Cruise Ship Dinner

Read in Sav Morning News

Alaska's Inside Passage

We’ve brought on additional staff so the executive director can raise more money…. So why isn’t he?”

This question came over dinner with new friends my husband and I met on a vacation cruise of Alaska’s Inside Passage (photo).

Our new acquaintance heads the finance committee of a small charity in a western state.

There, in the sterile safety of nearly-strangers, he felt safe, voicing his secret concern.

I replied, “Does your executive director have a written annual fundraising goal?”

“He’s very passionate about the work,” he answered.

(I think that’s a No.)

Many nonprofit board members share a secret: They’re not really sure whether the executive director is doing her job.

Surprisingly, board members who’ve spent a lifetime holding themselves and corporate teams accountable, seem ambiguous about requiring quantifiable goals for the nonprofit executive. The result is a continuous state of doubt.

Cash goals result in praise

During much of my fundraising career, I’ve been fortunate to work on a cash-received philanthropy goal. This literally means that when the fiscal year ends, unpaid pledges, verbal promises, numerous meetings, and implied gifts don’t count. Cash received does.

Because the difference philanthropy makes in the organization’s financial picture is reported monthly, board members are unreserved in their praise for the fundraising team.

How to Create a Fundraising Accountability Plan

Accountability creates respect, job satisfaction, and job security for the executive director and development staff at a nonprofit.

1. Review the past three years’ fundraising totals. Divide each year into sectors which best represent how your organization raises money.

When I led hospital fundraising, we goaled by center of excellence (cancer, heart, trauma, children and general).

Recently, however, I helped a client break out his philanthropy totals by events, government grants, corporate foundations, and individual giving.

Ultimately, you want to know where your past gifts came from so you can recoup those gifts while adding new donations.

2. Create a chart depicting your findings, and share with the fundraising team. Ask about risks and opportunities. (Email me for sample charts.)

Challenge and stretch, but respect voiced concerns. Frontline fundraisers know their donors best, and team buy-in is imperative.

3. Meet with the development and finance committees. Be prepared to defend and modify your numbers based on their guidance.

4. Recommend adoption of goals by the board. This action can come from the development or finance chair, who should highlight that a commitment from both staff and board is required.

5. Report monthly. First review numbers with your staff to ensure accuracy.

Florida or Washington, DC?

My dad’s sole desire for family vacation centered on making his three daughters happy. One year, we packed the car and drove until the road dead-ended at Pine Mountain.

Dad pulled over. “Well, girls,” he asked, “are we going to Florida or Washington D.C.?”

Oh, the treasured memories… including challenges finding a hotel, deciding where to eat, and navigating crowded tourist spots.

Nonprofits can be family-like. Maximize the warmth, cordiality and trust to thoughtfully create a written plan.

Even the best trip is better when you know where you’re going.

Want a professional perspective on your project? Contact Phoenicia.

Watch a sample of her work here!

Discover more simple, experience-based fundraising tips, by Clicking Here.

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