Tag Archives: Stalled Campaigns

The Tradeoff of Time vs Money in Fundraising – 7 Considerations

Tradeoff of Time vs. Money in Fundraising We all know the adage, time is money. Nonprofits often think volunteer time is better to spend than precious dollars. But is it really?

And in the time of the pandemic, is there more time or less?

The Tradeoff of Time vs Money in Fundraising

Let’s say that you don’t want to spend money on a fundraising consultant for a capital campaign.  You believe you can do it on your own – you have a dedicated group willing to put in the work.

Can you get the same fundraising results without investing the money in a nonprofit consultant like Mersky, Jaffe & Associates? No, time is, literally, money lost. Money lost by not knowing:

  1. How much to ask for. Most clients underestimate the ask amounts of all but the very highest and lowest donors.
  1. How to ask. We train solicitors to ask for seemingly outrageous donations, to overcome any objections to the campaign during a solicitation, and how to be persistent without being pushy during each step of the process. For instance, an untrained ear will hear “no,” and walk away. We teach solicitors to listen to hear if they are really saying “I need more information” or “not yet.”
  1. Marketing materials are a huge distraction. The weeks you spend holding off fundraising while crafting the perfect marketing materials will not improve your outcome. Marketing is within many capital campaign committee members’ comfort zones so it is not surprising that it is deemed essential before you can do anything else.  Truth: Many a failed campaign have had beautiful pieces. When we are called in to help with a stalled or unsuccessful campaign, we are almost always shown interesting, well produced marketing materials. Instead, we help you create a strong case for giving to your worthy organization – in a nice piece that an outside designer can work on while you are moving through your fundraising plan.
  1. How to create a fundraising plan with action items.  You need a campaign fundraising plan that leads you through your prospects in a methodical way. Who do you approach first? Who should be in your second, third or fourth round of solicitations? We help you avoid a scattered approach and focus on those who can make an impactful gift to the campaign.
  1. Who to ask.  Most clients have hidden gems in their donor database. Sometimes they will be low level, long-term donors with high capacity. Other times they will be people giving at a mid-level range that could easily be a major donor. We help you find the best prospects. And, help you determine when is the best time to ask them for a gift to your capital campaign.
  1. The potential for the overall goal.  What would you do if we could discover that you could raise $2,500,000 over your current goal? Our feasibility studies help predict accurate, achievable goals. Potentially, a goal you would not even consider without advice from someone like us.
  1. It just takes longer without counsel.  There is a lot to learn on the internet. In fact, MJA has 118 articles, before this one, that reference a capital campaign. It takes a lot of time to understand best practices, fundraising techniques and capital campaign strategies.  Time that could be spent raising money instead of watching construction costs rise.

If you still think the tradeoff of time vs money in fundraising without counsel is worth it, here is a link to the 118 other articles on capital campaigns. No judgements – this is why we write them.

If you would like to speak with us about your upcoming (or stalled) capital campaign, email me and we can start the process today.

Motivating Yourself To Make An Ask For a Donation

Are you willing to ask for a donation?

The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.
-Dale Carnegie

“If you’re not asking them for money, someone else is.”
– Abigail Harmon

Recently, I have spoken to a few friends/colleagues who are frustrated by their inability to ask for a donation.  There are plenty of reasons why this occurs:

  • The board has decided that this is not the kind of organization that asks people for specific amounts (which is usually followed by, “this has always worked for us in the past”);
  • There are potential donors but it is too soon to ask them for anything substantial;
  • We’re not sure we have a strong enough relationship for the kind of money he/she has potential to donate;
  • I’m not sure we have a strong enough case;
  • We need to create a plan for this type of donor;
  • We want to ask him/her for a major gift next year so we don’t want to ask him/her for a small gift this year; or
  • fill in the blank __________.


If you have a new prospect who has only been involved in the organization for under a year and you truly are developing a plan of action, determining how to get the donor more involved and deepening your personal relationship, don’t listen to what follows – you are on the right track.
If you have known the person for more than a year, I want to challenge your excuses  – I mean reasoning.  What makes you think that this year will be the year that you have all of the necessary information and you will be ready to move forward with confidence?  In other words, where are you going to find the time and resources to steward and cultivate this person?  When are you going to spend the time or money on prospect research?  What are you going to change in order to achieve your goals? It is time to ask for a donation.

Hire a consultant?

Mersky, Jaffe & Associates is often used as a motivating factor – the same reason Dale Carnegie made millions as a motivator (not that we are comparing ourselves to Dale Carnegie), but we are also called into initial meetings to ask the questions that you can no longer avoid.

  • How long have you been running a deficit?
  • Do you know how you are currently paying for the deficit?
  • When will you run through your endowment?
  • Which is more important to your organization, keeping a low-key culture where money is not discussed or ensuring the achievement of the mission and the fulfillment of the vision?

I say initial meetings because our successful clients know that they have a problem and they are truly looking for a solution.  They are not looking for someone to come in to save the day with a quick fix. They are looking to learn how to change their culture, make development core to their enterprise and ensure their organization is on stable ground for years to come. They are looking to understand how to ask for a donation again and again.

Closing Thought

Now, because this is my article, I will pose one more question for you to digest – why is a consultant considered expensive, but running through your endowment because of a fear to act is considered a reasonable solution?


Want to read another of MJA’s 10 Essential Articles? Click here

Learn more about Solicitor Training by clicking here

Consider Why You Shouldn’t Take It Personally When a Donor Says No by Clicking here


Note: this post was originally published in 2010 and updated in 2017








Do You Need a Capital Campaign Consultant to Achieve More? Here is a Quiz

Capital Campaign ConsultantIf you are considering hiring a capital campaign consultant, take the following quiz:

    1. Your organization decides to raise money for a new building.  You understand development and help create a fundraising committee that agrees to meet once a week. You agree to co-chair the committee.  At the fourth meeting only three people show up – including yourself and your co-chair.  You:
      1. Drink coffee and wait 30 minutes for others to show up before calling it a day.
      2. Catch up on recent organizational events that could possibly affect your campaign before leaving.
      3. Hold the meeting, moving forward with assignments, ratings, and updates with whoever is present.
    2. The end of the calendar year/fiscal year is coming up and you are still in the quiet phase of your campaign.  You realize that many of your donors have yet to give to the annual appeal.  You:
      1. Hold off on any asks until after the year closes.
      2. Only talk to people who have already given to the campaign.
      3. Consider who can be asked for both gifts at the same time.
    3. You are trying to decide how much money your organization can raise.  As with any group, a few people are skeptical about the chances of success.  You prevent this negativity from spreading by:
      1. hoping that their personal gifts will provide them with enough satisfaction to change their attitude.
      2. talking to them about how to improve their attitudes.
      3. proving through statistics and probability how the money can be raised with their help.

If you have not answered “c” to every question, consider whether you should call Mersky, Jaffe & Associates to help your capital campaign move forward. Our combined experience, perspective, consistency, knowledge, and focus can dramatically improve an organization’s chances of success.  It’s not that you can’t go at it alone, but it will take you longer, and in all likelihood, you will raise less money.

The choice is yours, but if you decide you would like to set up a meeting to explore the possibilities of a capital campaign consultant call David A. Mersky or Abigail Hamron at 1 (800) 361-8689.


Why This Article Will Not Improve Your Nonprofit

Telephone imageDo you know that feeling you get when you read something that is so true for you, that you find yourself nodding your head up and down in agreement? I just had that feeling recently, although I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that it had to do with my life as a consultant. Mark Satterfield, of Gentle Rain Marketing, sent out a sales letter that talked about the people that use his website as the valuable resource, instead of him as the consultant.

“Lots of people do that. They never really improve their sales results, they never really get lots more new clients, but they feel like they are doing something. Business growth through osmosis or something.

Or you can hire me to write a sales letter for you…or some website copy…something that will get you attention…get you sales…make you money.

How much do I charge? Well if you think you can get what I have to offer for a pittance you are sadly misguided. However if you sincerely want to stop messing around and finally get results from someone who knows his business cold, then, my friend, I’d love to talk with you.

Balls in your park. Want to talk? Just hit reply or just pick up the phone and call.”

Admittedly, we are a bit more formal at Mersky, Jaffe & Associates – that’s what happens when the principals of the firm went to Harvard – but the sentiment is spot on.

We offer an array of articles on relevant topics that are free for anyone to use. But, that is not the same as contracting Mersky, Jaffe & Associates as consultants to improve your annual fund, find a new Executive Director, or train your board.

Our expertise is not inexpensive, but when you consider:

1. the cost of your time – both in time lost to the learning curve and what else you could be focusing on instead of attempting to achieve all of your goals on your own;
2. the inspiration and authority that quite often, only a reputable consultant can provide; and
3. our proven track record of meeting and, often, exceeding goals – how can you not call us?

We start stalled campaigns. We bring confidence to donors – new and old. And, we bring in the right candidate to organizations and, generally, increase your productivity.

It is hard to spend money on something that is intangible. But spending the money on Mersky, Jaffe & Associates will mean that your nonprofit has more to spend on your priorities. And, in fact, after meeting with us, you will be able to define your priorities and know, with confidence, that the board and staff are in agreement.

So as our friend Mark Satterfield said, “Ball’s in your park. Want to talk? Just hit reply or just pick up the phone and call.” Or in our case, click here to email David Mersky.

Trust The Professionals

David Mersky and Michael JaffeOne 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.

Has Your Campaign Stalled?

Museum of Jewish Heritage

museum of jewish heritage

The monumental vision of a Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City was inspiring, but the efforts to realize it had stalled. Yearning to keep moving forward, the four co-chairmen of the Board and the executive director recognized that they needed help. It had been six months since the search for a Director of Development had begun and they still had not encountered the perfect candidate. Six months of attempting to save money. Six months before they called Mersky, Jaffe & Associates. Once the call was made, within 45 days, the ideal candidate was chosen (and there he remained for the next five years creating and implementing a development plan, raising money, and working to make that vision a reality).

The benefits of Mersky, Jaffe’s counsel and advice on the search were so apparent that MJA was called on to assist on many other tasks. Over the next five years, members of the firm helped the Museum develop a business plan; they trained staff, Board members, and volunteers; they increased the size of the Board of Directors, developed estimates of attendance and cost projections, even planned and organized a memorable opening ceremony and celebration. Mersky, Jaffe & Associates successfully guided the museum on a path to continue raising the financial support vital to the mission. MJA was the counsel the Museum of Jewish Heritage needed to achieve the monumental.

“Mersky, Jaffe gave us exactly what we needed — independent and frank advice, steady and sober support, and creative, constructive advocacy.”
-Dr. David Altshuler

How to Deal with the Stall: Managing Objections and Overcoming Excuses

Feeling stalled with donors imageAfter months of cultivation and relationship building, the time has finally come to ask for that major gift of which all your research has told you that he or she
is capable. You are, at long last, face-to-face, knee-to-knee with the prospect. You know your prospect, your case and you are the right person to do the ask.

The setting is perfect. You have structured the environment so that the prospect really is comfortable and believes that he is in control.

The conversation goes perfectly. You open and in a gentle way engage the prospect in the search for common ground. By responding to your open-ended questions, your prospect talks about himself and your agency. As you listen actively and take notes, you are planning how to reinvent your case for this prospect.

During the conversation, the prospect provides you with the perfect clue and you launch easily into the case. Even as you present your vision, you check in regularly with the prospect to make sure that he is with you every step of the way. Each time you ask an open-ended question your prospect seems to become even more interested and invested in what you are presenting. You are collecting a series of affirmative replies all along the way.

The moment of truth approaches when you have to ask the prospect to do that which you both came together to do-to make a difference. You ask the prospect to “consider a gift of the ‘rated’ amount. And after you ask, you are silent. The prospect turns the request over and over in his mind. You wait for the inevitable objections or excuses.

There are numbers of objections for which you are prepared. You have role-played with your colleagues every conceivable question that you think the prospect might raise.

And, so as not to disappoint you the prospect does indeed ask some questions about the impact of his prospective gift, who else is contributing at this level, and what future needs would be.

You know how to respond. First, you seek clarification, if necessary, to make sure you understand exactly what the prospect is saying. Second, you acknowledge that you have heard what the prospect has said by restating the objection. Then, you resume the case in a focused manner to respond to the objection. And, finally, you close again by asking the prospect to consider the gift, stated perhaps in a different manner than initially.

Finally, after what has seemed like an eternity, but in reality is only a few seconds, the prospect says, “I’d like to think it over.” You have just encountered the “Stall.” The good news is that the prospect does have some desire to make the gift, after all, he came this far in the solicitation process with you. The bad news is something is stopping him from making a gift decision now.

A stall signals conflict. The conflict is the agony of indecision between the desire to make the gift versus feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. When the desire is great enough the prospect will make the gift. A stall usually means your prospect does not have enough reason to buy now-he does not have a sense of the opportunity or the urgency. You obviously need to do something.

You remember all the affirmative responses you “collected” during the earlier part of the conversation. Now, in the face of the stall, you need to focus on the prospect’s positive emotions about your enterprise and the gift opportunity. When you overcame the objections earlier in the conversation you neutralized a block in the decision process. However, that is not enough. To overcome the stall, the prospect must feel a strong, positive benefit. Your task is to discover what the prospect perceives those benefits are and help him focus on them.

You might do that by asking questions such as:

* What do you find exciting about this enterprise?
* What advantage do you see in the opportunity?
* How would you benefit from making the gift?

By asking such questions, you will have a clearer understanding of your prospect’s motivation and be in a better position to move him toward a positive decision..

Try to find out the reason the prospect feels he might need more time to “think about it.” Then, when the prospect identifies his reasons for not making a positive decision, you have an opportunity to deal with them.

It is the combination of focusing the prospect on his positive thoughts as well as identifying the blocks that are the best way to overcome stalls. You may find that the prospect wants to give but does not see why he should buy now. He may not feel the urgency!

It is up to you to create that sense of urgency by “selling” his problem back to him. Build his desire by reminding him of the problem-and all the possible consequences of inaction-that his gift will solve. Get agreement on the opportunity, then rescue him with the solution-all the positive benefits that he had identified earlier.

Of course, there are times when you are legitimately stalled. For example, you and the prospect must do further analysis of the cash flow needs of the project as well as the income and estate tax consequences of the gift.. In that case, then you must employ strategies to obtain the next appointment as you keep his interest and involvement high.

Whether on the first or final call, the stall is the classic excuse to avoid making the gift decision. With a bit of practice, you can become adept at questioning to uncover the reason for the stall. In that way, you will help the prospect to understand why he can benefit from making the gift commitment TODAY!

The Triumph of Leadership

larchmont temple plaqueWhat do you do when you arrive at the end of your fundraising campaign and you have only raised half your goal?

This was a question that Larchmont Temple confronted. They answered by closing Phase I and began a more detailed plan for Phase II. Could the campaign be revived? Is the money “just not there”? What exactly went wrong the first time?

The congregation had been looking to renovate and expand their facilities. They had only raised sufficient funds to do a small part of the project. As they were in the midst of construction, they contacted Mersky, Jaffe & Associates.

Everyone agreed a feasibility study would likely uncover what went wrong the first time and point the leadership of the community to the right path for this round. However, no one on the congregation’s executive board expected the findings of this study. The distress of the donors in the Phase I was universal. The chasm in communication between leadership and members was deep and wide. The discontent was dispiriting.

MJA shut down the feasibility study with only a third of it completed, and recommended a course of action to redress the negative atmosphere that pervaded the lead donors and prospects.

The congregation implemented the eighteen-month plan and changed tacks completely. The new leadership confronted and overcame the problems that had been uncovered and were impeding progress.

At the end of those eighteen months, they were able to refocus on their original goal: Phase Two of the fundraising plan could commence with restored strength. The measure of success was a 250% achievement over the accomplishments of Phase One: all from individual members of the congregation; many of whom had given to Phase I; all of whom joyfully gave at higher levels than ever before.

What changed in 18 short months? The educational meetings that were held throughout the community definitely helped. The redesign of the marketing materials ensured clearer communications. And, the earnest listening to those who had contributed in the past and who felt ignored was a big part of it.

But, ultimately it was—as it always is–about leadership that transformed the congregation and enabled Phase II to exceed all of its goals and raise $6.1 million. It was the right people undertaking the task, doing what they promised they would do and maintaining accountability among themselves in an environment characterized by a pervasive sense of optimism that created this level of success.

And now, five years since completion of the Phase II campaign, Mersky, Jaffe & Associates continues to serve the leadership of Larchmont Temple. We work with a collective understanding of the value of strong relationships – whether it is for the 700 families in their congregation or the clients in our roster. A methodology that has proven successful for all.