Well I talked about the easy thing first and that was professional development and now comes the hard one – budgets and goals. Having spent a large number of years in non-profit, these are never easy items to talk about but obviously so necessary in your day to day work. As I mentioned in Part I, I was at a conference and these topics were at the forefront of my mind during and after the conference. During good economic times setting budgets and goals were not always easy to come up with. During a recession there are even harder to deal with.
I was speaking with a colleague and she mentioned that she lost one of her gift processors and that the position is not being filled. Back in 2008, I know this was happening and people were asked to make sacrifices. I know many institutions have been operating on a skeleton crew and multi-tasking like crazy or as I like to put it – “tap dancing as fast as you can”! Well after awhile folks those tap shoes begin to wear down and you need to buy new taps. Not only that, but you are exhausted and looking to take a break. In some cases maybe it was around trimming the fat where organizations need to streamline the process but it has been three long years and that this is continuing to happen astonishes me. There comes a point where you trim too much off and then you don’t have the resources or manpower/womanpower to honestly function. At what point do you stop and say not acceptable? This logistically is not going to work. Especially when budget cuts continue to happen and the fundraising and work goals continue to rise. Be sure your goals are realistic with the economic conditions, number of staff charged to meet this goal as well as the timeline. Setting yourself up to fail does not speak well internally and certainly does not want to be communicated to your constituents. Put yourself in place of the donor and ask “Do I want to contribute to the organization that is continuing to fail or one that is meeting it’s goals?”
There was another colleague who was referencing the extremely low cost per dollar raised. Striving for a low cost per dollar is great but once again, when the cost is extremely low then I begin to think at what cost? Are you missing opportunities for reaching more constituents or even asking for the right amount? So I challenge you to ask the tough questions like, “Were we truly effective?” or “Did we have some missed opportunities based on not spending appropriate dollars to get the job done right?” Finally, “Did we miss out on reaching out to more constituents and asking for the right amount?” I have seen first hand were no prospect research was done and as a result $10K was asked when later it was discovered that $100K was more of an appropriate ask.
*Michael Quevli is a consultant for Target Analytics. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.