Taking the Long View

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I was fortunate enough to see the musical Hamilton recently, and it reminded me to take the long view of our nation’s history.  Among its themes:  change is contentious, governing is difficult, and consensus is rare.

We fundraisers deal with change and governance in our organizations, and we seek consensus about our next moves.  If your organization has a history that spans several decades, I encourage you to take the long view of your fundraising efforts.

Maybe your CEO wants to know how s/he is doing with fundraising, and wonders whether the expectations that are set are realistic.  Maybe your board has become more active in recent years and needs some encouragement that their efforts are in fact paying off with improved fundraising results.  All of us—executives, volunteers, and fundraising staff—want to know whether the results we are achieving are positive for the organization.

Looking at an annual report will tell you some of what you want to know, but taking the long view will tell you more!  Here’s all you need to do.  Gather up all of your year-end numbers for the last twenty, thirty, or forty years.  Take only one number from each of those years:  total funds raised (at year end)Then make a second column, adjusted for CPI to 2017 dollars (you can find the formula for adjusting any calendar year into current year dollars anywhere on the internet).  From there, it is easy to group the results into decades, and to come up with a total for the decade and an average per year over each decade, all in 2017 dollars.

Fundraising is challenging work, but taking the long view may help your organization see the positive results that come from building your program over time.  As Alexander Hamilton would say:  “History has its eyes on you!”

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

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