Geared Up for Growth
AM: A lot of times we sort of forget about that piece of the puzzle, and it’s super important. We’re going to switch to Jo right now, to get some of her ideas.
Jo Sullivan: … I spent many years with a $900-plus-million organization. Now I’m in my same sector, animal welfare, and am the executive director of an organization called Save the Chimps, and our full operating budget is $5 million. We are small, we are tiny, but we are mighty.
Some of you who are on the line are sitting in small nonprofits right now, and you know that if your monthly budget doesn’t get met, all the metrics in the world, all the fundraising advice that you get in the world isn’t going to change the fact that whatever it is you serve isn’t going to get served that month. And that is a very humbling and a very fearful place to be if you don’t have the right tools.
So I find myself in my first few months here thinking, “What are the handful of things that I could steal really, really well that the big guys do?” And the big guys have done it because they have a little more opportunity to invest and maybe make mistakes, learn and keep going. Mistakes in a small to midsized nonprofit can be a death knell, but you still have to try. You can’t not try.
So what I’ve come up with and how I’m approaching revamping everything from our website to our mass-marketing fundraising … is:
1. Think big. Think very big, and work backwards. Look at the organizations, either within your sector or others that you admire, the way they market and communicate. Look superficially. It doesn’t really matter at first. Call someone within that organization, and ask them to be a mentor. Look at a big org chart of an organization you’d like to be a part of or how you would like to see yourself grow over the years, and pull that to the areas that have the most opportunity for you. If you are uniquely situated for major gifts or you have a fantastic story that’s Web-friendly and very visual, maybe start that before you start your mass-marketing fundraising opportunities. Or convincing the board to not cut back on acquisition … it can be challenging. So get out there and see what the best practices are and how you can get the best bang for your buck. Which leads to …