Has this happened to you?

The CEO pronounces that she wants you to double the number of donors and increase net income by 25% — by the end of the year. You know you can’t do both at the same time. The cost of acquiring new donors being what it is, growing the donor rolls will actually cause a drop in net income.

You try to explain to the CEO she has to make a choice. She says “find a way to do both” and walks away.
We’ve seen that scenario 100 times.

Leadership means taking the time to understand the unyielding math of fundraising. When the fundraisers hear “both/and,” they know they are on their own.

Nearly every day we confront the tension between fast returns (Emergency! Crisis!) and relationship building. The benefits of money in the door are palpable. The longer-term benefits of cultivation are more remote and murky. Guess which wins out?

Seth Godin makes an identical point here, talking about the tension between building brand trust and making a fast buck. His conclusion applies with equal force to fundraising:

“It’s easy to seduce yourself into believing that you can be trusted at the same time you take short-term profits and cut corners when it suits you. Alas, that’s not going to happen.”