Black Clouds and Silver Linings

Every black cloud has a silver lining.  Some months ago, our beautiful ficus tree that graced the parkway in front of house fell. The city took out the stump and roots, and I was left, feeling bereft (and not a little bit naked).  They have replanted a strawberry tree, that will—in time, just perhaps not my time—grow into someone large and lush.  But they didn’t put it where I wanted, and it is very small.  Each day, as I walk or drive in front of my house, I felt a pang, a loss, a sadness.

And then warmer weather came. Ficus trees all along my street started dropping berries, splattering sidewalks, the road, and yes, front yards. Suddenly it seems not such a tragedy to no longer have a ficus tree.  I revel in my clean sidewalk, front yard, street.

We’ve all had situations that seem grim.  Galas that lose money; direct mail appeals that fizzle.  Grants get turned down.  Major donors decide to decamp.

I just picked up a new client who has a real black cloud.  Their one big sponsor, the company that has been their angel for many years, has told them they are done.  Finished.  This year’s gift—half of what they have given in the past—is the last gift they will make.

There are many reasons for this, not the least of which was that three years ago, the organization was told to increase their donor pool.  “We no longer want to be your main support,” the funder said.  “We want you to go out and over time be able to match what we give you.”

They didn’t.  And now they are in a world of hurt.

Or maybe not.

While they’ve done a rotten job of asking people for financial support, they do have a broad base of volunteers, and an even bigger list of people who have attended their events. This is a good starting point.

Even better, they have a well-connected board.  The members do need to become more committed to the organization and more willing to share those connections.  That takes education and clearly stated expectations.

Beyond the current board, there are the past board members.  There are especially, but not exclusively, past board presidents.  Not only should they all be asked for support, but they should be re-engaged with the organization and asked to become strong ambassadors for the group.

Easy to say what needs to happen; harder to make it happen.  But that is where a solid plan comes into play.

Note, I didn’t say a wish or an editorial about the various types of fundraising that go into a solid development program.  I said plan. Miriam Webster defines that in several ways:  A map.  A method for achieving an end. An orderly arrangement of parts of an overall design or objective.A detailed program.

A fund development plan must include a goal (how much do you need to raise?) and the techniques that you will use to reach that goal.  Which techniques should not be predicated on what is new and shiny or what your board (and maybe you feel comfortable with).  It must be rest sturdily on  your resources (primarily human, including your staff, fundraising volunteers, donor and prospect lists, depth of information about those on the lists, etc), with a budget for what it will cost and a clear delineation of the steps it takes to get there.


Email me for a fund development plan template and/or a free 30-minute phone or video consultation to talk about your specific fundraising needs and how together we can turn your fundraising black cloud to a silver (and maybe even gold) lining.


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