You Expect Me To Raise What? Unrealistic Fundraising


Dealing with the Blue-Sky Revenue Number

At my presentation to a chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals earlier this year, the audience asked some excellent questions. Here is one and my answer. It will be beneficial to you when you encounter high fundraising expectations.

How do you handle a board or CEO who sets astronomical fundraising goals they expect you to raise?


First, take the “you” out of it. Focus instead on the origin of the goal. Rarely will the history of the goal include a thoughtful analysis of giving patterns, considerations of the marketplace, and other investments such as PR, marketing, and development. If you discover this kind of history, you may discover that the goal isn’t a blue sky, after all. More often, the goal will be based on the funds needed to close a budget deficit, the funds raised by another envied nonprofit, or the development staff’s salary multiplied by ten. In this case, move on to teach.

Ask: How was that goal determined?


Compared to your board, you are a fundraising expert. Ask questions to help other leaders better understand how to develop realistic income and fundraising goals that everyone can enthusiastically support. Their answers will help them understand that blue-sky number goals don’t serve the nonprofit and that better options exist.

Ask: How does the goal compare to what was raised last year? What percent of growth does it represent? Has the organization ever achieved this kind of growth?


Offer to help the nonprofit to set realistic-stretch goals. If they accept the offer, establish a small group to meet once. In part, your goal will be to educate them about how to set income goals. Before the meeting, develop a process to establish a range that you can use every year. Once you meet and establish a realistic goal, share how the group reached it with others, such as the CEO and board of directors.*

Ask: Would you be interested in having my help to determine a realistic range of revenue?

*At yearend, evaluate your success, tweak the process, and set a new goal.


More Resources

5 Ways to Turn Off Your Nonprofit Board Members

Guilty As Charged: Prove Your Board Supports Your Organization

How to Help Your Board to Take Smart Risks

Create the Board of Your Dreams

It Doesn’t Have to Be Lonely at the Top

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