I like the advice of this post about fundraising. Here’s the crux of his advice:
Young funds go through a period where the first handful of deals test the proof of concept. Can these cats pull this off? Then, you’ve got another bunch of deals that ask the question, can they scale their strategy without blowing up? Then, there’s the next stretch of transactions — a larger number, not unlike the larger patient populations of Phase II trials — where you really start to get a sense for whether a fund is going to work or not. And then you get to the metaphor for Phase III (which, interestingly, often coincides with fund III) in which you can see a robust test of the hypothesis. Is this thing better than the alternatives? (Of course, by then, it’s typically too late to get on the bandwagon, so the sweet spot is usually somewhat earlier.)
Although he is talking about General Partners who are raising private equity funds, I think that it actually applies more generally to anyone raising funds (e.g., for research, for non-profits, for candidates, for new ventures,etc.) Test concept. Try to scale. Ramp up. Don’t screw up your new institution!