Finding the Middle Ground: Negotiating Fundraising Goals Part Two

 Part two of a two-part series

When we look around the country our communities can appear polarized, as if we are living on different planets. We can’t understand how people could look at the same situation and see such different possibilities. But maybe there is a common ground. Let’s try for it in life and let’s try for it as we set nonprofit fundraising goals.

In part one of this series we shared examples of different ways that CEOs and development/ fundraising staff can view fundraising and the establishment of goals. With this column we share suggestions for reaching across differences. 

First, we recommend a “talking it out” session. This should be a no judgment zone where the CEO can share her assessment of the prior year’s fundraising and her vision for the year ahead. During this time development staff should be quiet and actively listen. This is not the time to question. After the CEO has shared, development staff should share their assessment of the prior year and their vision for what is possible in the coming year. When they have finished, every participant should share the key points they heard. If meeting online, use a chat box to record these points. If meeting in person, use the old-fashioned white board or flip chart. You want to hear and see the full diversity of opinions – especially those areas where there is common ground. Point out the differences too – these can help you increase your common ground.

Sometimes differences lie in access to information, ideas, or relationships. For example, a CEO could be anticipating increased revenue because she has had one-on-one conversations with a government representative or foundation leader who is pledging additional funds. Fundraising staff may have run reports showing 20% of prior donors did not give last year and collectively that represents a 30% drop in revenue. This decrease doesn’t show when numbers are looked at in aggregate, because your nonprofit received pass-through COVID relief related funding, so it looks as though you are holding steady. But the development director knows it will take hard work to bring prior donors back, or to find new ones to replace them.

Another way to increase common ground is to set non-financial goals for fundraising. Development staff, the CEO, and board members can all be asked to “work a portfolio of prospects and donors.” That means each has responsibility for communicating with specific individuals, keeping them apprised of the organization’s work, encouraging them to give, and inviting them to introduce others to your nonprofit. Everyone should report their progress or activity monthly. 

Board and staff should also share an ongoing responsibility to build a pool of prospective donors and funders who can collectively give three times the annual fundraising goal. This helps answer the question, “where exactly could the money come from?” We recommend working with a list of three-times your goal because everyone will not say “yes,” and you need a backup in order to meet your goal. Finally, meet monthly to review exactly where things stand and to make adjustments quickly.


Copyright 2022 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2022! Video and phone conferencing services are always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.

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