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The Most Dangerous Thing in Fundraising—yes danger

I’m a numbers guy and I love to measure things.   What happens when you make a numerical mistake?  Or worse, what if length should have been width?  The most dangerous thing in fundraising is pinning your future success upon measurement of the wrong things.  Yes, the wrong things.  By doing so, not only do you not know where you’ve really are, you have no idea where you are going—but you think you do.   Now that’s REAL danger!

When you’re looking to gauge the success of your fundraising efforts in order to predict future performance a mistake in calibration will tack you onto the wrong course.  A mistake in your choice of measuring stick, however, is an entirely different matter that will leave you clueless as to your direction or destination.

Most nonprofit organizations pay close attention to the cash coming in the door during—the last year, the last quarter, even last week.   Cash is important. You can’t operate without it.  So far, so good.  The difficulty arises when cash-received is then used as the principal or sole barometer of future fundraising performance.  Hmmm—why am I getting that sinking feeling?

Many nonprofit board members focus on the cash line as that is often the only piece of data that they are given.  Who’s to blame them if they’re not told that cash is only a record and never a predictor?

Members of an organization’s board are charged with ensuring the future revenue stream—not simply reviewing the past.  Board members, by a large, want to help; they want to do the right thing.  In order to be effective in fundraising, they need the right data and a plan based upon that data.  Give it to them, or don’t complain when you don’t get the results you’re looking for.

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