We are all busy doing good work. We are researching, writing, teaching, speaking, advocating, planning, convening and more. We are ending hunger, HIV, war, and policies that discriminate. We are starting new environmental programs, educational efforts, and workforce development partnerships. Sometimes, with all the work we just might get a little loose with the numbers. Not on purpose. Not because we are being deceptive. Usually, it’s just because we’re not sharing information internally. One group of people uses one set of numbers, and another team uses another. Not that this could happen at your organization! We are all A+ at everything, except when we’re not. So, lets talk about those numbers. We want to help you stay transparent and honest with yourself and others – and keep you from crashing into the reality of numbers that don’t match what you thought they were.
It is important that the numbers you share internally are in sync with those you share with individuals and organizations outside your nonprofit. Here are examples of numbers to think about: how much money you are raising, your annual budget, how you spend the funds you secure, fundraising projections for future years, and how many people you are serving/ educating/ training/ tutoring… Internally, you need to know your donor “attrition rate” – that is, how many donors and funders give one year, but don’t give the next. Related to this, you need to know your donor “retention rate” – how many donors and funders give year-after-year. These are important: you don’t want board members and others mistakenly believing you can automatically raise what you raised last year. When the numbers aren’t shared – or aren’t calculated – a nonprofit can get caught off balance when people giving fluctuates.
You can end up with different numbers being calculated and communicated when different people create proposals, the annual report, reports to funders, and those for volunteers and board members. All the numbers should be the same from report-to-report. You may need a bookkeeper, development professional, or CPA to help ensure your numbers are rock solid. The leadership of an organization should be able to quickly give a breakdown of how funds were spent and the impact. You should know which funds are restricted (and to what) and which are unrestricted. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you are unintentionally keeping two or more sets of numbers – one each for different reports and audiences, and another that’s “official.”
There’s always someone in a group who will run the numbers in their head and raise questions at an inopportune time. We’ve seen it happen. No one is doing anything “wrong,” but things just don’t add up and people start to pull away. At the end of the day, the executive director, CEO, or president is the person responsible for knowing the numbers and what they mean. You can’t pass the buck. If you can’t understand what is being presented or have questions – speak up. You don’t want to “pick a number, any number.”
Copyright 2023 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Let us help you grow your fundraising. Call us at (901) 522-8727 or visit www.saadandshaw.com.