By Todd Cohen
Fundraising is stuck in a vicious cycle of greater expectations.
Charities ask donors to dig deeper. Colleges end big drives by starting bigger ones. And United Ways always must raise more than last year.
The cycle needs to stop.
Times are tough, and charities rightly want to do more to meet rising demand for services, but they only get hurt when they strain to flex fundraising muscles they do not have.
Using their head, not their heart, charities need to know their limits and keep from setting bloated goals if pushed by over-eager, clueless boards, ego-driven donors who will not recruit other donors, gung-ho consultants quick to tell charities what they want to hear, or news media that measure success only in terms of growth.
Charities are more likely to thrive if they set goals they can reach, and then try to build their internal operations before stretching to do more.
And donors and volunteers are more likely to invest money and time in charities that plug them into causes they care about, and involve them in organizational planning.
By living within their means, and engaging their backers, charities can deliver solid services and give themselves the time and support they need to figure out how to grow.