Doomed to Struggle

In “Winning: The Five Truths of Fundraising,” we write that every development professional makes a decision about the kind of fundraiser he or she wants to be.

Do I permit the “stuff” that appears every day to dictate how I spend my time? Or do I make visits, growing relationships and inviting investment my priority?

Do I wallow in endless events and direct mail because “we don’t have any major donors,” or do I invest the effort to begin those relationships?

How many times do we hear, “You can be whoever you want to be?”

We just have to decide to be that person.

Organizations, nonprofit organizations, are just like people. They have a life cycle. They’re born, they’re young, they mature. Organizations go through rough patches and celebrate good times just like people do.

And like people, organizations make decisions.

“No matter what it takes, we are going to serve people of reduced economic means.” “We will be intentional to introduce the Symphony to school children in our community.” “If we don’t fix up our building, we’ll close some day soon, so we’re going to raise the money to renovate!”

Sadly, so sadly, there are organizations that make the decision they are “doomed to struggle.” They WANT to struggle. It makes them feel better.

They find it more comfortable that way.

This is a subconscious decision usually, but not always. That’s mind-blowing to think about, but absolutely true.


The board, the CEO and employees feel they will be closer to their mission if they struggle. “We don’t want to appear to be wealthy.” I’ve heard that said in just those words. Maybe you have, too.

Or, “this is how we’ve always been, and we believe it’s our destiny to be this way.”

Another root cause is lack of discipline. An unwillingness to expect the Board to assume its responsibility for the financial wellbeing of the organization. Refusing to invest in a proper development program. And a penchant to build the expense side of the annual budget first, then struggling each year to find the income.

This fantasy that struggling all the time is “who we are” or “our lot in life” ignores that finding the discipline, making the right decision will allow the organization to achieve its mission more fully!

But that escapes the organization, just as making the right decision so often escapes people.

Organizations that feel “doomed to struggle,” deep down, like being that way.

That is a tough charitable investment for donors to make.

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