When we fail to plan, we plan to fail.

In today’s mail, I received a frantic letter from a ministry where just a year ago, the board was patting itself on the back about the organization’s strong financial position. Now I learn that a disaster is likely unless “300 people give $120 each or 500 give $72” by the end of the month.

The executive director attributed the crisis to the usual culprit – the lingering effects of the Great Recession. However, it turns out the national economy has little to do with the organization’s money woes. It’s simply that two major grants have ended, leaving a gaping hole in the operating budget.panic_button_2667I stuck a check for $120 in the mail to the organization, but with little sympathy for the board and staff.  I can’t help wondering what they were doing as the clock ran down on the grants.

Was the staff aggressive in seeking replacement gifts and grants? Did board members use their connections to bring new donors to the organization? And did the board and staff strategize together about how to trim the budget if new funds failed to materialize? I suspect the answer is no to all three questions.

The moral of this sad story? To fail to plan, is to plan to fail. As Thom Jeavons and I wrote in Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry, “Good planning enables the board and staff to take stock of where the organization stands in the present, decide where they want it to be in the short and long terms, chart a course to get there, and monitor progress along the way.”

Surprises happen. That’s life. But with a solid plan in hand, there are fewer jabs to the panic button. I promise.


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