How many nonprofit clients do you need each year?

How many nonprofit clients do you need each year? Not “how many can you handle?” How many do you need? As someone who spent time in fundraising, I know that’s like asking “how big a gift can you take?” Unlimited? Right?

Well, not quite.

As a good friend, a refugee from Silicon Valley now at a nonprofit housing agency, said the other day, “I only have so much bandwidth.” (Bandwidth = “time in our lives,” to you and me.)

Do you have enough bandwidth to make the money you need or want?

Answering that question right depends on a lot of variables… how much you charge per hour or per job, how much time you put into each assignment, how much vacation you want and what else fills the space in your day, like family and other obligations.

After you account for all of that, how many assignments can you take on in a year? From there, how many jobs can you count on regularly – one, two, three or four times annually, or each month? Which ones are going to leave (or you want to leave?) Does that leave room for new clients?

Remember that like any part of our lives, nonprofits have yearly lifecycles and that you are usually working ahead of their cycle (for example, any preparation for year-end fundraising should be done by late October.) That could mean that when they’re at their busiest, like in December, you’re “off” because all your work for them is done. (And don’t forget to work those times into your calculations.)

Unfortunately, too many of us leave the concept of “how many clients” to chance. Even if we do calculate how many, we make little efforts to make that goal. Usually, we just wait to see what comes our way.

Want more? Subscribe to ThinkNP Now, the weekly resource for anyone who speaks nonprofit, and consulting.