There’s no doubt about it. The fourth quarter of the calendar year is when a lot of your revenue comes in. And that’s good news and bad news.
The bad news is that if you miss your revenue projections for this time of year, it is usually too late to do anything about it by the time the quarter is over. The good news is that you can avoid the shortfall if you:
- Assess how your fundraising efforts are going.
- Operate with the right fundraising philosophy and strategy.
- Take the right steps now to minimize the possibility of a revenue shortfall.
Let’s break these three down.
- Assess how your fundraising efforts are going. If you haven’t done this already, it is not too late to assess how your fundraising strategies are performing. You still have most of November and all of December to make course corrections. So, if things are not going as well as you planned, take the following steps this week to get back on track:
- Make sure you understand what the revenue expectation is for each fundraising channel or strategy. The sum of all your channels and strategies should equal the total budget commitment you made to leadership. How is each one doing? What is your forecast for how you will end up on December 31st? Do not get into wishful thinking here. Be realistic. If direct marketing is going to miss the budget by 15%, just own that it will. Too many managers ignore this point and keep the promise going, even though, deep inside, they know they will not make it. That is not good management. Be precise on this point.
- Decide which channels/strategies can pick up the slack. You might decide that the shortfall in the corporate/organization channel can be made up in major gifts. Talk to the owners of each area and gain commitments for increasing their goal to make up for missing it in another area.
- Reforecast and redo the plan. But do it quickly. Some of your major donors could step in and help, if you explain what is happening and the consequences of not raising the funds you had planned to raise.
- Operating with the right philosophy & strategy. The right philosophical basis for good fundraising is relationship-based and driven by passions and interests. The wrong focus is transaction-based. If all you are doing is calculating how to get the money from the donor, you are transaction-driven. And that approach will ultimately fail.
If your focus is about serving and helping each donor fulfill their passions and interests, you are on the right track and will experience success.
So, first, be sure that how you are thinking and planning for your donors is relationship-driven. Then, from that solid starting point, create your strategy.
You will need to meet with finance and program to gather information on the program categories that may not be fully funded. Program will need to identify what the consequence will be for each area that misses its funding goal. Finance and leadership will need to identify those areas that will need to be cut if funding is not secured.
Here is the main objective of this first point: if the budget of the organization has been done right, the funds to be raised are targeted to fund definite program and operational categories. If that is true, then it is also true that something needs to give if the funds are not raised.
And it is this point – that something needs to give– where ethical and effective fundraising happens. Why? Because donors want to solve the problems they care about. And if a program or operational category they care about will suffer a consequence due to lack of funding, then they will likely step in and help IF they know about it.
I know that this step sounds labor intensive, and it is, although it’s not as bad as you think it is. But the investment in gathering this information on consequences of not meeting budget will be the basis for your success in avoiding the shortfall.
- Taking the right steps. Now it is time for action and that involves some basic steps:
- Identify and approach major donors whose interests and passions match those areas that are vulnerable to budget cuts if funds are not raised. Talk to them. Help them understand the consequences of miss the fundraising goal. And then confidently ask them to help.
- Create and mail (or email) extra appeals, explaining the need and consequences of the need not met situation(s) that you have uncovered.
- If you have a membership or pledge program, approach those members and pledgers for extra giving. Many managers are reluctant to do this, arguing that these kinds of donors are doing all they can or doing all they committed to. Well, that is not true. Many of these good people will step up and help out if you just explain the situation and ask them to help.
- Ask organizations, foundations, and corporations for extra giving. Again, many managers and fundraising professionals are reluctant to do this, fearing that these organizations will not give beyond the commitments they have made. This is not true. Go out and do it. Be bold.
During this pandemic, many of our clients adopted this strategy and made it through just fine, raising 23% more than last year, on average. And this was in the face of major strategies, like events, being eliminated from the fundraising strategy. This proved to us, once again, that donors will step in and help if they are properly presented with the facts of an area they are interested in.
The fact is that many donors (individual and organizations) can and will give more if they are presented with a factual and objective statement of need. So, prepare that ask and go out and do it. But be quick about it. Time is running out.