Provocateur logo2.png


Andrea McManus, ViTreo Group Inc
February 19th 2019

Belts and purse strings continue to tighten, coffers keep shrinking and many nonprofits and their causes are having to make do with less. In last week’s The Provocateur - About To Go Over The Fundraising Edge? I wrote about alternative funding sources, as the economy has affected the ability of one of the main go-to’s for corporate funding (in my little corner of the world) — the oil and gas sector —  to continue its support at previous levels.

What’s a fundraiser to do when there’s no money coming in? Are you brave enough, do you have enough courage to continue the good fight during these times? Can you keep brandishing your fundraising weapons as a barrage of rejections are flung at you?

Are you a Fundraising Amazon or Gladiator?

Are you a Fundraising Amazon or Gladiator?


It’s in times like this that innovation and creativity along with a warrior-like attitude serve us well. The other option, which isn’t one as far as I’m concerned, is to wave the white flag and give up.

Rather, it is time to do a tough and deep review of existing fundraising methods and tools (which I advocate doing on a regular basis, economic downturn or not). It is time to be fearless — and kill your darlings if they no longer serve you. It is time to be unflinching in assessing tactics and altering strategy, if needed.

“Tactics implement strategy by short-term decisions on the movement of troops and employment of weapons on the field of battle. The great military theorist Carl von Clausewitz put it another way: "Tactics is the art of using troops in battle; strategy is the art of using battles to win the war.”

- Spy Hill Molossia Organization Military Academy 02/13/18


It may be timely to conduct a SWOT analysis to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your organization and its philanthropic efforts. When was the last time you did a thorough review? What opportunities are you missing? Are you focusing on your strengths?

This is also a great time to be nurturing that philanthropic culture in your organization. Engage other staff in these discussions. Ask them about their experiences during this difficult time. Connect their experiences to the mission-related challenges you are collectively experiencing. Connect the dots between mission fulfillment, philanthropic revenue, donor capacity and market forces for your board members by engaging them in the conversation. Take a big tent approach — this is a challenge for the organization, not just the fundraising department.

We must be more entrepreneurial in our efforts, more willing to pick ourselves up and try something new. There are many excellent books on developing business strategy - I’ve said it before - nonprofits benefit from following the business models of successful companies. Here are some of the most highly recommended ones by Business Insider in 2018.

A properly developed communications strategy is also critical to engaging stakeholders and conveying key messages and impact. The Chronicle of Philanthropy offered this webinar in 2018 on how to improve yours. Other upcoming webinars on a range of topics can also be found on its website -  

“Join us for a session that will identify key ways your communications strategy can lift your organization’s profile and help you raise more money. You’ll learn how the Vera Institute for Justice invested in communications – and convinced grant makers to do the same – tripling the size of its communications department and leading to growth in online supporters, revenue, and programs” - Chronicle of Philanthropy Webinars

As in battle, there are times to regroup, review and reconsider. Stop hurtling yourself at the onslaught of rejections and sorry, not this year responses. Do the really brave thing - which is to admit what you’re doing isn’t working.


None of us escape this life unscathed by difficulties. Individually, as business owners or as organizations, we have all faced tough times.

What will see us through those challenges is resiliency. Without the ability to bounce back or to make the decision to carry on, we won’t recover, or at least not as well.


In the article, What Richard Branson Learned From His 7 Biggest Failures - The mark of a true entrepreneur, Branson talks about the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Branson who was a high school drop-out, and has experienced many failures along with many successes, says he chose to never give up.

“After accidentally losing most of their fuel, Branson and his co-pilot found themselves above the Pacific Ocean facing gale force winds. With no hope of rescue if they ditched, they calculated the likelihood of their survival at only 5 percent. Branson has said they were faced with two choices, either lay down and accept their fate or stay up for three days straight trying to reach North America. They managed to make it to safety, and Branson’s experience taught him the value of resilience. ‘Never give up,’ he said in an interview. ‘Even if it sounds slightly corny. Fight, fight, fight to survive.’” - Entrepreneur --  What Richard Branson Learned, Alph Mimaroglu, July 12, 2017

ViTreo’s Vincent Duckworth recommends the book Grit —The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth (no relation) as an excellent read on the subject of resiliency — watch her TED Talk (6 mins) about Grit below.


There are some highly recommended books on resiliency and leadership here:

  1. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz - recommended as a “must-read for anyone on a continuous path of deeper connection with themselves & others.”

  2. The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer - leadership lesson - hard decision making is often sidelined by our ego preventing us from doing what’s right for the greater good of the organization in place of our own agenda.

  3. Rising Strong by Brene Brown - third in a trilogy on courage and vulnerability - Brown’s advice on those struggles which bring us to our knees. Brown also delivers some powerful TED Talks -  Brene Brown Ted Talks - on vulnerability and leadership.

  4. The Five Levels of Attachment by Don Miguel Ruiz - lesson for leaders – “as attachment to financial outcomes grows, we move further away from our organizational mission.”

(source: -- 4 books to make you stronger in 2017, Marissa Levin, 12/28/16)

Most of us have had days where we felt like giving up, I’m sure. Don’t. Our work is important work. We all know that. Surrender is not an option.

The Provocateur Art - Blog (30).png

Interested in a SWOT Analysis for your nonprofit but don’t have the research capacity? ViTreo can provide a SWOT Analysis of your organization with additional advice on how to tap into your nonprofit’s strengths and opportunities. Contact us today to learn more.



Andrea McManus, Chair, Board of Directors, Partner
ViTreo Group Inc

Andrea McManus is a Partner with ViTreo with over 30 years’ experience in fund development, marketing, sponsorship and nonprofit management. A highly strategic thinker and change maker, Andrea has worked with organizations that span the nonprofit sector with particular focus on building long-term and sustainable capacity. 

Andrea McManusComment