There is a “chicken or egg” dilemma that goes something like this: Do the organizations that raise lots of money year in and year out do so because they are rich and already have lots of support or is it because of the way they go about raising their money? The answer is both.
I’m sure you heard it said—or perhaps you’ve said it yourself—that organizations that raise lots of money do so because they have lots of money. This is true—but not exclusively. For it to be so, begs the question of how they got to be “rich” in the first place.
The organizations that have healthy fundraising totals each year achieve these numbers because they have adopted the right paradigm toward their fundraising; and they have done so from the very beginning of their existence. These organizations have taken the perspective that fundraising is investing. Getting donors to invest takes time, both an initial and ongoing financial investment and consistency of effort. Starting off modestly, these organizations have chosen to never see their fundraising as cash-in, cash-out. They have been willing to put financial resources into a fundraising effort that measures success in years, not months. As a result of the consistency of effort, these organizations have grown and expanded their donor bases and fundraising totals into an effort that truly has its own synergy and momentum.
Recently, USC announced that it is embarking upon the largest campaign in the history of American higher education–$6 billion. To achieve this goal—at least five years away, they have undertaken a 100% expansion of their development staff—with its attendant costs—now. This is nothing new for USC. The university has always set bold goals for itself and then set out to achieve them. It was the first to successfully break the billion-dollar barrier in a campaign. It’s not about the billions, however. It’s about the focus, determination and consistent investment—in time and financial resources—that have brought the university to this point.
So let it not be said that consistent, expanding fundraising success is only for the well funded and powerful. It’s for any organization has the organizational courage and focus to obtain that status.
Larry C. Johnson