Fundraising and eating elephants

You’ve heard the one about how to eat an elephant. It’s done one bite at a time.

The point, of course, is that seemingly daunting challenges are easier to “swallow” when approached incrementally. We’ve been convinced that it takes massive action to achieve anything of significance. Yet for most of us, most of the time, it’s faithfulness in the small things that gets the job done –including when confronting this year’s fundraising challenges


Almost daily I hear of ministry organizations that are struggling to make ends meet.

  • The seminary president dealing with an unexpected drop in enrollment.
  • The pastor facing a $60,000 budget short-fall.
  • The food bank with shelves as bare as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.
  • The mission agency that’s been forced to recall workers.

When facing tough times,  it’s tempting to pull the covers over our heads and pray for a miracle. But the “elephant” will still be in the room.  So let me suggest other options.


Set short-term goals. And I do mean short-term — nothing further out than a quarter.  One month at a time is even better. Be brutally honest about what’s holding  you back from raising more money. Then prepare to tackle your demons head on with a step-by-step plan.  I’m no psychic, but I see “make more calls” at the top of your list.

Commit your plans to prayer. And not just once, but daily. For most of us, breaking free of old ways of working demands a mega dose of divine intervention. Nothing empowers like stating and restating our commitments to God — at least that’s my experience.

Share your goals with an accountability partner. Along with divine assistance, it helps to have support in human form. Fundraising is exhausting, frustrating, lonely work.  Having someone around who cares enough to hold you accountable to the plans you’ve made is a marvelous gift.

Get out of the office. There’s no ignoring this most basic of fundraising truths. You don’t raise money sitting at your desk — at least not in significant amounts. Granted, every once in a blue moon a major gift comes in over the transom. For all the rest, there’s an ask involved.

So how do you “eat” an elephant-sized fundraising challenge? One bite at a time. Bon appetit mes amis.

How are you dealing with the elephants that are stomping around your fundraising program? What’s your advice for newcomers to the development jungle?

What's your take on this topic?

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