How Long Will it Take You to Raise the Money?

All too often well intentioned staff or board members will come to you, the seasoned fundraising professional asking for help securing funds for a need not originally in the strategic plan and more specifically, the integrated development plan.

These requests are usually for last minute programs, non-budgeted expenses, “silver bullet” fundraising events, and my personal favorite consultant fees… upfront payment for somebody promising to write grant requests.

When these requests come across my desk I’ll typically ask these questions:

Is the (insert urgent need here) worth alienating the donor most likely to fund the request? Not usually. If you have been properly cultivating and stewarding your donors you might have somebody interested in helping with urgent needs. If this is true, be sure to link the funding need to your mission and provide a clear case for support that resonates with your donor’s personal interests.

Why wasn’t this in our original budget? Usually last minute financial needs are not considered in the original budget because they are not essential to your ability to satisfy the organizational mission. If the emerging need is critical for organizational success, ask yourself (and the board) “what can we cut from the planned budget to fund this unplanned item?”

If we pay upfront for somebody to write grant requests, how do we keep them accountable for meeting performance benchmarks? You can’t. Staff performance should be built into the strategic plan and should be reviewed by the board at least quarterly. Adding staff or consultants to the payroll without clear performance expectations, and which are paid irrespective of performance sends a terrible message to the remainder of the organizational staff being held accountable by the strategic plan and proper board governance.

So when I’m asked “how long will it take you to raise the money?” I typically respond that it will take anywhere between four months and a year. This range varies depending on how the specific item relates to organizational mission, strategic plan, integrated development plan, budget priorities, board oversight, and donor linkage, ability and interest.

About Benjamin Mohler

Benjamin Mohler, CFRE, ACFRE has a keen interest in understanding the connection between culture and the practice of philanthropy. His experiences working with international nonprofit organizations, extensive international travel, together with his graduate work at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and leadership roles with local nonprofits combine to produce his expertise in this area. He’s also a big baseball fan.

Mohler is the Assistant Vice President for Major and Planned Gifts at Eastern Kentucky University. Prior to his current role, he held key roles with The William States Lee College of Engineering at UNC Charlotte, Cedarville University, and The Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), Advanced Certified Fundraising Professional (ACFRE), and serves AFP at an international level, including his current role chairing the publishing committee for the AFP Fund Development Series.

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