Short on Funding

by Tom Robinson, City Network Member, Engineers Without Borders Canada

  • Project: Junior Fellow Program
  • Location: Grand River, Canada
  • Sector: Fundraising
  • Professional Designation: NGO


For the year 2010, Grand River Chapter of Engineers Without Borders Canada committed to sponsoring a Junior Fellow (JF) for a four-month placement, as the chapter often has in the past.  At the time the commitment was made, the chapter had about half the necessary funds available; however, based on previous experience, we were confident that we could easily raise the remaining funds, along with the additional funds needed to maintain a smoothly functioning chapter.  However, as a chapter we failed to recognize a difference between this year and previous years: six chapter members, including some who had been highly active executive members for several years, were leaving to go overseas for EWB placements or for school.  This decrease in available members resulted in an unanticipated loss of fundraising power from which we are still trying to recover. We still have not met our JF funding commitment.

In June, our chapter met for a one-day retreat where we developed a short- and medium- term fundraising plan.  We decided on three activities to be run early in the summer and a longer-term campaign to begin in the summer and continue throughout the year.  The longer-term campaign was a fundraising challenge involving local companies.  The groundwork for that campaign had been laid out over the previous year.  Chapter members volunteered to run each of the activities set out during the retreat.  We left the retreat confident we could meet our fundraising target.  However, we failed to recognize some impediments to implementing the fundraising plan.

We did not fully recognize the time constraints of the members going overseas, some of whom volunteered to run some of the short-term events.  During the summer, only one of the short-term activities was run.  The activity run, a fundraising concert, was quite successful; however, it raised only half of what we anticipated, due to lower than expected ticket sales.

The company fundraising challenge was a major component of the plan; however, it did not generate income as quickly as expected.  We failed to recognize the amount of knowledge about the fundraising challenge that would be lost as members went overseas.  Additionally, we did not recognize the amount of work still needed before the campaign would produce donations. We encountered difficultly developing the website and preparing presentations to be given at participating companies.  While work continues on the campaign, and we remain optimistic that it will provide long-term, stable income, it has yet to generate any income.

On a positive note, two other activities outside the original plan, the run to end poverty and a wine and cheese, brought in substantial funds.


We have learned that before committing to supporting an overseas placement, it is ideal to have all or most of the money available.  If we do not have the money immediately available, we need to have a concrete, specific fundraising plan that recognizes personal time constraints.  We need firm commitments from those who volunteer to run fundraising activities.  We should work on increasing committed membership, allowing a wider distribution of responsibility, making activity organization easier and increasing our fundraising capacity.  Finally, we need better processes for handing over of portfolios and information as members leave the chapter or go overseas.


Select three phrases that describe this failure.

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  1. shapiro says:

    I feel that this is not exactly relevant to the Humanitarian Aid sector in that it is only a training camp for EWB employees/volunteers/members and not directly related to Development. Additionally the ‘failure’ sounds more like idiocy, surely it is obvious that programs should not be undertaken when sufficient funds are not available. It is common sense not to commit to program if you don’t have the resources to be able to ensure the feasibility and continued existence of aforementioned program.

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