How Long Will it Take You to Raise the Money?

Posted Nov 17, 2009 by Ben Mohler

Time required to raise gifts varies depending on how the item relates to the mission, strategic plan, development plan, budget, board oversight, and donor linkage, ability and interest. So, not fast.

All too often well-intentioned staff or board members will come to you, the seasoned fundraising professional asking for help securing funds for a need not originally in the strategic plan and more specifically, the integrated development plan.

These requests are usually for last minute programs, non-budgeted expenses, “silver bullet” fundraising events, and my personal favorite... upfront payment for somebody promising to write "sure bet" grant requests. 

When these requests come across my desk I’ll typically ask these questions:

Is the (insert urgent need here) worth alienating the donor most likely to fund the request?

Not usually. If you have been properly cultivating and stewarding your donors you might have somebody interested in helping with urgent needs. If this is true, be sure to link the funding need to your mission and provide a clear case for support that resonates with your donor’s personal interests.

Why wasn’t this in our original budget?

Usually last minute financial needs are not considered in the original budget because they are not essential to your ability to satisfy the organizational mission. If the emerging need is critical for organizational success, ask yourself (and the board) “what can we cut from the planned budget to fund this unplanned item?”

If we pay upfront for somebody to write grant requests, how do we keep them accountable for meeting performance benchmarks?

You can’t. Well, you sorta can, but it's difficult. Especially if they're paid up-front. Staff performance should be built into the strategic plan and should be reviewed by the board at least quarterly. Adding staff or consultants to the payroll without clear performance expectations, and which are paid irrespective of performance sends a terrible message to the remainder of the organizational staff being held accountable by the strategic plan and proper board governance.

So when I’m asked “how long will it take you to raise the money?” I typically respond that it will take anywhere between four months and a year. This range varies depending on how the specific item relates to organizational mission, strategic plan, integrated development plan, budget priorities, board oversight, and donor linkage, ability and interest.