Who owns the income projections for your organization?
“We just make up the income projections to match the expense projections. All non profits do it that way.”
“When I was hired as the first fundraiser, they told me that my goal was to raise $200,000 in my first year. But then when I reached that target, I was told that the REAL gap between income and expenses was $500,000.”
These are actual quotes. From smart people, at competent organizations. But each indicate a blind spot, and in my experience, this blind spot is one of the most crushing frustrations of development officers.
It’s a simple truth, but one that evades many: income projections should be based on capacity, not need.
My friend Steve Haddad, a top-notch fundraising consultant in Baltimore, describes the ideal scenario. The fundraiser figures out what is possible, based on a number of factors (the likelihood of major donors and foundations to increase their gifts incrementally or dramatically, the track record of event and mailings, and the odds of miraculous intervention.) The head of finance figures out what the organization needs to accomplish its mission. The two meet, slide their opening bids across the table, and then discuss how to bridge the difference.
The most significant thing about this drama is that the two characters are meeting as equals. Respectfully. No one is bandishing ultimatums.
Fundraisers are often described as having “responsibility without authority.” In other words, they have to accomplish things that are out of their control. Top-down or arbitrary income targets epitomize that trap. Fundraisers, say it with me – “I am not going to take it any more! I own the income projections!”