What Are You Doing (Fiscal) New Year’s Eve?

For many of us in the nonprofit sector, we have entered the 4th quarter of the year.

For some it’s a time of fear and terror as we scramble to reach year-end goals.

For others it’s a long, slow, smooth slide into the new year, confident in the plans to kick off . . . .

Yeah, ok, that last part’s not true.  Rarely happens.  BRAVO if it does for you!

But let’s talk about planning . . .


And the answer is . . . mission.  Period.

The mission of the organization is a statement of what we do.  If we accept the general idea that a nonprofit exists to solve a problem or fulfill a need – feed hungry people, provide affordable housing, create art, advocate for the voiceless, the list is endless – then the organizational budget is, essentially, “How much does it cost to {mission}?”

Answer that question, you have your budget.

Now.  How much of that cost has to be raised through fundraising?

Could be all of it, could be some of it – depends on the balance between earned income and contributed income.  Could be some grants in there.  It has to be based on both history and capacity . . . .

Fundamentally, though, the budgeting process is about answering the question “How much $ do we need to serve our beneficiaries – that is, to execute on our mission?”

Budgeting has to be beneficiary-oriented.  Centered.  Whatever you want to call it.

Now . . .


Let’s say we know the answer.  Let’s just say it’s $1,000,000 for sake of argument.

And let’s say that $250,000 of that comes from earned or grant sources already identified – non-philanthropic dollars.

That means we have to raise $750,000.


Here’s the key in fundraising planning.

Make this connection, and the actual plan falls right into place . . .

That $750,000 represents actual mission in action.

That $750,000 means hungry people get fed, dogs and cats find homes, children succeed in school, sick people get better and on and on and on and on . . . .

We lose sight of this too often.  Somewhere in our anxiety about asking and pressure from leadership and dithering into the details of what will and won’t work, we lose sight of the idea that our work – fundraising – is alchemy.  We turn donor dollars into life-changing mission.

Whether that donor is an individual or a corporation or a foundation or a silent auction purchaser or a local business or you-name-it, we have the privilege of being able to say to them “You are making a difference.”

Because they are.

Fundraising budgeting and planning is the act of alchemy – transformation.

From there it’s just details – how many donors of what types giving how much $ through what vehicles.  There’s no magic, no great secret – identify the # of donors you need and how much money you need to raise from them, then set the strategies to do it.  Go forth and prosper.

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