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Episode 52: The #1 Thing I Did to Reach Our Annual $5.2M Budget

Nov 07, 2019

You did ALL THE THINGS that you do annually to reach your revenue goals but somehow fell short of reaching your annual budget. For some reason all those ideas that were buzzing around in your head at the beginning of the fiscal year that you wrote into a high-level strategic fundraising plan didn’t work!  Why?   


Strategic plans are fabulous.  They’re a great way to put all those fundraising ideas down on paper. 

And, let me guess, you likely did more than just write-up a plan.  You likely met with your ED to go over ideas and got his/her approval on moving forward with your ideas.

And the board likely approved the ideas, too!

If you designed this high-level strategic fundraising plan right, it probably included the following:

  • Securing Grants
  • Securing Individual funding such as annual gifts and major gifts
  • Hosting a new fundraising event 
  • Participating in the annual online giving campaign of some sort

ALL THE THINGS!  They were there on paper ready to be…….

Executed Upon! 

Ding, ding!

Let’s take a deeper look at the word “Execute.”  

First of all, It’s a verb!

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it like this:

1 : to carry out fully : put completely into effect execute a command. 2 : to do what is provided or required

The cat is out of the bag.  The #1 thing I did to reach my annual fundraising goals was “EXECUTE.” 

Let me ready you some famous quotes:

A Good plan, violently executed now is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” - George Patton

“Most leaders would agree that they’d be better off having an average strategy with superb execution than a superb strategy with poor execution.” Stephen Covey author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

"To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed.  They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions." - Steve Jobs

And for this episode, I want to use the word “try” and “execute” interchangeably.  

So back to how I met my annual fundraising goals. I wrote the strategic fundraising plan and all I did was try!  That’s it folks. I worked the plan! I executed.  

To  help me make sure I stayed on task, I created tracking sheets and dashboards that I used to track my progress.  I used the dashboards to keep my boss up to speed and used the same dashboard to update the board of directors.  

Here’s a sample of the type of tracking document I used to update the board of directors on our numbers.  It’s something that was part of a Powerpoint presentation I used to report out to the board of directors.


Annual Fund

YTD Annual

Annual Remaining


Govt contracts 




We lost $40K.  Mtg to follow the change. 





This includes 200K from X Person

Rest. Indiv




Donor Gift

Corp Spons.





Fdnts New/Inc 





Fdnts Renewal




X and X are left










This will be added to next year’s fund

As you can see, it’s fairly simple. 

Now, I’ll remind you that the larger and more detailed information was inside my high-level strategic fundraising plan document that I’d created at the beginning of the fiscal year.  It had all the details!

And it was inside that high-level strategy document that I wrote down all the ideas, all the plans that I would execute upon throughout the year!

Now here’s the thing.  Did I accomplish all I set out to do?  Was it easy? Truthfully, no. I recall setting a goal to host 10 small mini events between the months of September to the end of November.  The hope was to create a pipeline of new prospects that would get funneled into attending our annual marquee fundraising event.

I didn’t end up hosting 10 but instead hosted 8.  Not bad! Right! Some of the events had 75 people in attendance but one event in particular had 3 people show up.  That’s it.

Overall, these events averaged about 50 attendees per event.  That means these small events added up to about 400 people into our donor database.  I was pretty proud of that number!

But, hosting an event where 3 people showed up isn’t something I’d call a success.  Did that stop me? No way. I kept going. I kept executing on my plan. I kept trying! 

I want to end by saying I can give you all the tools like tracking documents and dashboards and all the fanciest strategic plans but if you FAIL to execute on these plans then quite simply you might FAIL at reaching your annual fundraising goals. 

So this next year do me a favor and do 1 thing - Execute!  Try! Plan your work and work your plan!

Bonus Tip:  When I wrote the annual budget, I wrote it for more than our goal knowing that I would likely end up meeting my goal.  For example, I identified grants in the amount of $2M in an effort to secure my grant amount of $1.2M. This means we applied for grants in the total amount of $2M.   



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