In our growth obsessed culture, which worships the tech giants and calls them geniuses for growing often beyond the bounds of what is healthy, or sustainable for the business, should our nonprofits seek to grow?
When we raise more, we can do more.
Growth is seen as a natural outcome of success in fundraising, but can we sustain the money necessary to continue new positions or programs?
Often growth brings problems we are not ready for.
Here’s an example. I raised $45,000 with an appeal letter, twice as much as we raised the previous year. That sounds like a good thing, right?
Well, because my boss didn’t know how to manage a fundraising program, she didn’t get me more resources, a bigger budget, or coaching to do even better the next year. She just thought, oh great, now Mazarine can just raise that amount every year.
Here’s a dirty secret about fundraising success: When you raise more on a shoestring, your boss or board often expect you to continue to raise even MORE year on year, without an increased budget for fundraising.
Another example: We raised money at our gala for a new rural bilingual bicultural Latinx outreach coordinator for our domestic violence shelter.
Then once she got the money for this person’s salary, we didn’t have a plan to hire this person, or sustain the income necessary to keep their position funded. We ended up not hiring them.
Often we look at the news cycle and we feel like it is ever more urgent to grow, and do more for our communities, because the need is so great right now.
What can we accomplish if we grow?
We can help our communities succeed in the wave of uncertainty hitting our world. We can address the urgent needs, and respond more quickly to emergencies.
But what can we accomplish if we stay where we are?
If we are raising more, we can build our cash reserves. We can invest in training. We can focus on getting even more efficient and effective at the things we do each day at our nonprofit. We can learn how to manage a fundraising program. We can look at the right metrics (no, not just dollars raised) like turnover rate in the role, how many people were asked for gifts this month, and how many people we have in our pipeline.
When you consider the effects of rapid growth versus slow steady growth or even stasis, you might find that you’ll have a more productive nonprofit, and a better life, if you don’t exhaust yourself trying to grow faster than you are ready for.
Want to grow slow but steady?
Want to use your reserves to prepare to grow sustainably?
Or check out the Entrepreneurial nonprofit cohort.