Why You Shouldn’t Make Fundraising Decisions in A Vacuum

Lisa Tarshis

I’m not a chess player but I do know this, chess players are always thinking three steps ahead. They know that moving one piece will change the board, creating openings in some places and blockages in others. They think ahead and anticipate the challenges and impact.  

Fundraising decisions have implications too and these are often felt by the entire organization. The decision to apply for a new large grant may lead to funding that allows us to expand a program. The decision not to steward our donors may lead to losing a large donor and needing to cut back on programming.  

I’ve been thinking about decision making and the decision making process a lot lately, especially around the conversations on eliminating the give/get requirement to create more equitable boards. 

I’m all in favor of creating more equitable boards. This is an important conversation, and I’m glad we’re having it and examining our leadership and DEIJ practices more thoughtfully in the nonprofit space. 

And I’m not here to tell you whether you should eliminate your give/get or not. 

I’m here to be your chess coach and to remind you to think three steps ahead. 

Over the past couple of months as these conversations have become a regular part of my week, I’ve noticed that many of them only focus on the equity pieces and don’t address the unintended consequences.

Let’s say, for example, as a board you have a give/get and you reliably raise $30,000 a year through that. You now eliminate the give/get requirement. What’s going to happen to that $30,000? 

How do we shift our fundraising strategy to account for this change? 

There are so many potential solutions to this challenge. The first step is understanding that eliminating the give/get may cause a financial gap in our organization and brainstorming what to do about that. It’s about thinking 3 steps ahead and planning for what might happen and how we will address that so that we can make the changes we want to make.  

Not sure where to start? Download today’s freebie: Thinking Through Your Fundraising Decisions Like a Chess Player. In addition to a worksheet, you’ll receive an example specific to making a decision around your board give/get requirement.