Each day can be hectic, with people, problems, and politics that clamor for our time and mental energy. In the midst of the hubbub and the minutiae of daily life in our organization, it's important to take a step back from time-to-time to look at how we can be strategic in shaping our organization and in helping it to better serve our community. What follows are seven strategic touch points that are worthwhile to review to keep our thoughts, plans and actions focused on improving our long-term fundraising outcomes.
- Keep a viable mission in the forefront. Focus on your organization's mission - one that is definable, understandable, supportable and needed. A mission should not be secondary to survival. Celebrate what you do to change people's lives as you fulfill your responsibility to meet community needs.
- Have a business-like board of directors. Your board members must know (and understand) your mission and the community you serve. They serve as the check and balance with staff and donors. They need to be able to act quickly and effectively. The board also should be formed with the future in mind. If you are going to enter a campaign mode, perhaps your board should be populated with more members who have financial capacity; if you need to deal with organizational issues, perhaps the board should become one that has more planning, organizational, and management skills. The most successful boards are a balance of all the above characteristics.
- Be financially diverse. Cultivate many sources of funding - individuals, foundations, corporations, government. Consider creating a related business to provide income - for example, look at the stores of Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army or Goodwill.
- Respond rapidly to changing conditions. How much of your service are you providing in the same way (same place, same time, same method) as you did five years ago? Peter Brinkerhoff, author of Mission-Based Marketing and other books, warns that the world has changed - a lot. Does your organization have the ability to change with it? Are you thinking strategically about the future? You should think like a change agent, helping the people in your organization to overcome their natural resistance to change. An organization that changes with the times is going to be more successful then those that remain stagnant.
- Seek collaborations and/or partnerships. One issue we face is competition. There are too few good board members out there, and too few dollars, so we end up competing with one another. Have you considered joining with another organization that serves the same population that you do? I've talked with several organizations about merging in order to grow their effectiveness and efficiency. There are also opportunities to work collaboratively, to develop ways to identify and solve a community need. For instance, let's not just feed and house the homeless, let's work to eradicate homelessness in our city.
- Maintain a bias for marketing. To me, the ideas of marketing and communications underlie all we do in attracting resources of time, talent and treasure, and in serving our missions. The basis of marketing is understanding others, their desires and needs. That is, we should be "other-oriented". We should think about how our organization can join with the mission and the focus of a donor to achieve the donor's goals - this would be true for all sources of money. Do we ask our donor prospects what they want to accomplish? Do we ask foundations: how can we help you meet your goals? If not, we should!
- Be a friend-raiser and relationship-builder. Fundraising is an outcome. Donors give because of trust. Trust is created in a process of getting to know you and your organization. At the same time, you get to know the desires and needs of the prospect. A gift is not the result of an ambush; it is the result of a relationship. Ken Burnett says in his book, Relationship Fundraising, "Relationship fundraising advocates a return to the close intimacy of the one-on-one relationship between donor and cause".
While each of the seven points is valuable for guiding us toward success, I believe that the most important is the last one: friend-raising and relationship-building. Creating and maintaining new relationships should be ongoing, not just for fundraising, but for achieving each of our strategic concerns. There is no one better to refresh our relationships with than those we know can help us to be more successful.
You can start right now to improve your organization: call at least five donors today and every day. Just say, "Thank you, you're important to us. And, if there's ever anything I can do to help you, please let me know". You'll be excited by the response you get and the progress you make.
Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is among the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada. If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.