Budget season is here. And we’re starting to help clients think through revenue expectations for 2020.

Mark recently wrote a must-read blog post about complexity that I’m compelled to highlight here in the context of budget setting.

He wrote that when we’re working in complex environments, “we’re dealing with phenomena that can neither be controlled nor accurately predicted. This is the realm of systems. Organizational culture is complex. Presidential politics is complex. There are simply too many variables and too many interconnections to be able to predict or control what’s going to happen. But complex phenomena do have patterns that can be understood and can be influenced by our actions.”

The fundraising landscape in 2020 is going to be COMPLEX! To name a few of the complexities…

  • Fundraising competition from Presidential candidates
  • A non-stop news cycle which jumps from crisis to crisis in a matter of seconds
  • The economy
  • The election outcome (If what we’re all working towards happens, there will be a correction in Trump bump fundraising and revenue will be down)
  • The timing of year-end 2020 after the election

I could go on…

But now is the time to look for the patterns and to plan for living/working through this complexity. As you think about your budget, I suggest chewing on:

(1) Two budget scenarios: A Trump win and a Trump loss. Get your leadership ready now. They need to understand the implications this election will have on your bottom line. It’s always easier to raise money when there is a clear enemy running the country. The earlier you start talking about it, the better. And remember: Trust no poll. 2016 was a surprise and 2020 could be too.
(2) Lower one-time revenue expectations and focus your year on building sustainers: Monthly donors will likely stick with you regardless of the election outcome.
(3) Budget for cultivation and stewardship: It will be important to distinguish yourself from electoral campaign fundraising by offering donors and prospects meaningful ways to engage with your organization beyond fundraising.
(4) Infuse “economic downturn” release valves into the budget: If the economy starts to contract to the point of jeopardizing fundraising results, what investments can you cut with minimum damage? Think about ways you can trim fat during a worst case scenario.

One thing is certain: 2020 will be a roller coaster year. Now is the time to start preparing.