One of the aspects of our firm, Mersky, Jaffe & Associates, that has always interested me is the capability to accurately predict the amount of money an organization might raise. This is established through a combination of interviews as part of a detailed feasibility study, an understanding of the economy and the environment of the area in which our client functions and, of course, the experience of the two partners, Michael Jaffe and David A. Mersky. Our firm’s objective in its pre-campaign assessments is to show an organization “…not if, but how…” it can raise the funds for its capital project or endowment program. And, often, the members of the community indicate that they do support the project, so the fundraising plan is created, funds are raised and the project is completed.
But, rarely, we have had to tell a client that we do not think they can raise the amount they need to fund their dreams. In the current economic uncertainty, it is possible that we may have to say this to more clients than we ever have in the past.
And that is when we find out if we have been engaged to provide strategic counsel while assisting in the raising of money or engaged to just raise the money. In fact, in the latter case, it is often the arrogance and overconfidence of the organization’s leadership that has lead to the the projected shortfall.
About a year ago, when we reported the results of our assessment to a client, the Executive Director was convinced that we were wrong. “You don’t understand our community. We can raise the full $6 million. We have to. The architects told us the building addition will cost $4.8 million and we need to start an endowment for upkeep. Everyone really supports the project so they will come through with the money.”
After the exchange described above, there was silence from the client for about two months. Then a call came to inform us that the client had found an alternate fundraiser who told them what they wanted to hear and we parted ways. The organization is still struggling to raise the money and, of course, they have not yet found the way to begin construction or fund their endowment.
Experience and knowledge cost money. When you interview, research and check the references of vendors of any sort, you should have confidence in your decision to engage a particular consultant. You should then have faith in their opinion.
Trust the professionals.