Here’s the conundrum: transactions happen today, relationships build over months, even years. Real relationship-building doesn’t conform to rules of thumb or your annual targets. Also, if you’re building from scratch, it could take years to get from here to there.
Meanwhile, you feel like you have a fundraising problem today. Your real problem is that you’re the only person who has that problem. Your potential funder does not have a fundraising problem. Or a giving problem. She has, we hope, a “getting something done in the world” problem.
The paradox is that doing this right is a long term build and you have to be clear about what success looks like. The seemingly contradictory mistakes you must avoid are: 1. Walking around and just seeing your short term needs; and 2. Never being ready with a real, crisp, compelling ask at the right time and the right way.
When is that right time? It’s kind of a Goldilocks question, but if you’re not sure what your answer is my bet is that it’s sooner than you think (better to ask too soon and fail a few times than to wait too long). Through it all, you need to experience and communicate a sense of urgency about your mission, clarity about what you’re doing, and readiness to articulate what you are trying to accomplish and how a funder can be a part of it.
But people, like dogs, can smell fear and desperation a mile away.