How Much Money Can You Really Raise? 5 Ways to Tell

I had dinner with a fabulous group of executive directors last week in Asheville, NC.question mark2

Their burning question was: “How much can we really raise?”

They wanted a fundraising reality check.

They didn’t know what kind of expectations they should have for fundraising.

It’s an interesting question.

What’s YOUR fundraising potential?

If you want to know how much you can raise, you’ve got to step back.

You’ve got to take a clear-eyed assessment of what you have to work with.

  • You’ve got to look at your current successes and where you can build them up.
  • And you’ve got to look at where the easy money might be that you are not going after.

A Fundraising Assessment can tell you a lot.

So few organizations undertake a really honest fundraising assessment.

You have to thoughtfully ASSESS where you are and what you have to work with.

What's Your Fundraising Potential? Time to Look Ahead and Figure it Out!

What’s Your Fundraising Potential? Time to Look Ahead and Figure it Out!

Only THEN can you decide what’s reasonable for you to shoot for.

Benefits of stepping back dispassionately.

When you step back dispassionately, you can evaluate where you are really spending your time and how it is paying off.

We all know that fundraisers and volunteers spend far too much time on unproductive activities.

For example, many people are staging fundraising events that are not particularly productive. You know it and I know it.

  • A fundraising assessment gives you the opportunity to look at your program analytically.  Without emotion. Without drama.
  • It gives you a politically safe format for saying “are we spending our energy in the right place?”  (We can all use political cover!)
  • It lets you have an honest conversation with your team.

5 Ways to Identify Your Real Fundraising Potential

Do you have unproductive fundraising strategies that are sacred cows?

Do you have unproductive fundraising strategies that are sacred cows?

1. Look at your current results and trends.

What results are you getting from your various fundraising strategies?

  • What are the trends in your fundraising programs? Trends can tell you a lot!
  • What trends are on the rise?
  • What strategies are not paying off like they used to?

You should be able to see where your opportunities might be if you shift your focus.

You might be able to add resources somewhere and receive a significant jump up in revenue.

2. Ask yourself, your staff and trusted board members where you might be leaving money on the table.

Sometimes board members can be really useful at the strategic big picture level. But we don’t want  a “Boards Gone Wild!” situation!

  • Brainstorm with them about potential relationships you might be able to develop – people, companies and foundations they know.
  • Get them visioning some doors you could open. You might even get them volunteering to open the doors.

3. Evaluate your fundraising assets.

My colleague Sandy Rees says every organization has unique assets it can use to bolster fundraising.

What special opportunities do you have?

  • A great location in town?

    Where are your fundraising challenges? Identify them and deal with them!

    Where are your fundraising challenges? Identify them and deal with them!

  • A cause that is suddenly very popular?
  • Were you recently in the news?
  • A very popular gala or event.
  • A new team member you can make into a “personality” or celebrity via PR?
  • Do you have new internet or social media talent joining your team?
  • Is your board suddenly interested in helping?
  • Do you have a new CEO who brings in expertise or relationships?

Take a look around. You might find some surprises you can play up and run with.

4. Take a hard look at your challenges.

Listen, we all have roadblocks. That’s part of life.

And some of your fundraising efforts, I bet, are being challenged.

If you want to know how much you can raise, you must be willing to acknowledge what’s not working so well.

  • What’s NOT working? Where are you wasting time?

    how to spend your day today

    It’s time to honestly assess where you spend your time each day!

  • Are you losing too many donors each year?
  • Have you cut your fundraising budget and staff but not your fundraising expectations?
  • Is your staff totally run ragged?
  • Is your data base a mess (don’t worry – almost everyone’s is!).
  • Is your signature event losing steam?

Just be realistic.


Wistful thinking is not going to raise your money!

Being realistic will lead to smart decisions and planning.

Being realistic will help you sleep at night too.

5. See if there are some major relationships or coalitions you could create.

Sometimes amazing results can happen by building key relationships.

Do you have a seat at the table in your community? Are you considered a player in your area?

(Someone once told me, “if you don’t have a seat at the table, you are probably on the menu!”)

Your board members can really help here. Engage them in a big-picture discussion.

How can you team up with another entity – governmental, philanthropic, other nonprofits?

  • Maybe it’s a medical coalition that is being formed.
  • Perhaps new money is coming in to your community to work on environmental issues.
  • Or all the arts groups in the city are banding together for something big.

Be alert. Be strategic. Be opportunistic, even.

Maybe a key relationship could catapult your organization into a whole new level.

Smart fundraisers PLAN in the summer months so they can be more successful later!

Smart fundraisers PLAN in the summer months so they can be more successful later!

Why am I bringing all this up in July?

Because this is the blessed slow time for most fundraising professionals.

This is our much-needed vacation time. And it is our planning time.

It’s really important for you to take the time RIGHT NOW to create a smart operational plan for the coming year’s fundraising.

And the first step is to evaluate what’s working and what’s not working.

The second step is to create a smart fundraising OPERATIONAL plan for the coming year.

Let’s see how much YOU can raise with YOUR own 10-Point Fundraising Assessment.

I want to help you answer these questions:

  • How effective is your current fundraising plan?  Where can you increase your fundraising revenue streams?
  • Where do YOU need to focus time, energy and resources
  • Where can YOU increase your efficiency?

What’s holding YOU back from raising money?

Join me for a 1 1/2 hour virtual workshop on Wednesday August 7 to help you perform your OWN Fundraising Assessment of your OWN potential.

I’m going to take you through a 10-Point set of checklists to help you determine where your best opportunities ARE.

I’ll help you step back from the weeds and look at how you can raise money in new and better ways.

This is the time to create a smart, strategic Fundraising Plan for the coming year.

The first step is your Assessment. Then you create a Plan. (Hurray we are getting organized!)

Find out more and join me here!