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When You Get to a Fork in the Road – Take It

Yogi berra

One of Yogi Berra’s famous utterances – When you get to a fork in the road… take it – has always resonated with me because it characterizes the forced choices we have to regularly make in our advancement work. Whether we like it or not, or whether we know it or not, we are constantly faced with forks in the road that give us options that may make or break our fundraising program, or at least slow its progress. And it is the wise professional who is both on the look out for these forks and has done the thinking, research and discussion with peers, to best inform decisions.

Here are a few examples of common roads less traveled and often traveled by advancement leaders.

Design the program to attract a higher number of gifts at lower initial gift size, with higher response rates and lower retention.

Annual giving <

Design the program to attract a lower number of donors at a higher initial gift, with lower response rates and higher retention rates.


Continue to use in-house staff to segment lists, write copy, design graphics, manage production and do result analytics while getting mediocre results.

Direct e/mail <

Hire a proven direct response firm to do all of the above and re-task in-house staff to build relationships with and solicit leadership annual donors – making better use of the position.


Hold out to find someone with demonstratable experience who demands a higher salary.

Major gift officer hire <

Hire a professional with related skills from sales or hospitality industries who can be trained and be paid less.


Continue doing costly, traditional events that have lost their luster but are loved by trustees and executives.

Fundraising events <

Get the board and other executives to agree to phase out the traditional events and explore creating updated events that may be more mission-centric and raise more money.


Spend the funds to hire campaign counsel to draft a campaign case statement, engage stakeholders and interview leaders and donors, and recommend a can do or aspirational goal.

Campaign undertaking <

Execute a campaign using a “need” goal or a “guess” goal, with or without campaign counsel.


Take your development program to the next level by attending conferences and huddling with staff to forge a plan.

Advancement planning <

Spend the funds to hire development counsel with depth in advancement planning.


Please share other forks in the road you have encountered.


Your takes:

  1. Take stock annually of your program and identify what needs to change in order to improve your program’s performance.
  2. Map out your options and seek peer or professional counsel to help inform your options.
  3. Confer with your leadership and be able to sell it to them and others.

Related GivingTake posts:

Are You Asking the Big Question of Your Leadership?

Are You Giving in to #GivingTuesday?

Fundraising Beyond Rock-Paper-Scissors