The non-profit sector has grown rapidly if measured by the number of organizations.  Alas, it is also shrinking by the more meaningful measure of private giving as a share of national income; on this score it is down 11%.

A smaller pie and more mouths to feed is a recipe for disaster and yet, status quo thinking and activity dominate within organizations.  The growth curve can be bent but only with a willingness to do business much differently.

In the realms of computer science, operations research and management science lives the world of mathematical optimization, conceptually a very simple concept, with the purpose of finding the best approach from a set of available alternatives.

This definition could just as easily be applied to fundraising strategy, and even life.  There is however one insidious concern with optimization; what if the set of alternatives we are optimizing or choosing amongst is not complete?  What if we have unintentionally omitted the best alternative from consideration?  Unknowingly the “optimum” isn’t optimum at all, merely the best of our not- so- best options.

Mathematicians call this “local optimization” versus “global optimization” with the former representing identification of a “winner” among a set of choices that does not include the overall (or global) best choice.

This global versus local phenomenon is very useful when conceptually considering the lack of growth in non-profit fundraising and how to fix it.Download