What Color is Your Trout?
I was recently on a vacation in my native West Virginia. My relatives live in the Monterville region of the state. We decided to spend the 4th of July there with other family members. My sister-in-law found a wonderful place for my family to stay. The place is called the Elk Springs Resort in Monterville. We lived in a cabin for several days next to rushing waters in a beautiful setting. This resort is home to many out-of-state fly fishermen who spend hours catching large trout. I dabble in fishing, but my brother-in-law and nephew are the serious fly fishermen in the family.
While I was sleeping on our first morning at the resort the boys were already in full gear on the water. If you love mountains and streams this is almost heaven. The water is cold, as the Elk River at this location comes forth from limestone caverns deep below the Allegheny Mountains. The resort is also a hatchery for trout. There are many ponds filled with trout. They are hard to see at times except for one species of trout. The golden rainbow trout are bred from a single mutated color that originated in a West Virginia fish hatchery in 1955. Why do I mention the golden trout? Because the light colored trout definitely stands out in a pond of dark-colored fish. Then it occurred to me. What makes your organization stand out in a crowd of other charities? Do you have a light or dark color in the pond?
The topic of standing out may not easily jump to mind but is important. In Indiana alone, there are more than 35,000 nonprofits seeking funds on a daily basis. That is a lot of competition to deal with in the arena of annual, major, planned and capital campaigns. Place yourself in the position of funder for a moment. I wonder if funders get tired of the quantity of asks taking place on a daily basis. Have you ever stopped and wondered what would make you the golden trout in the pond of trout?
To make yourself stand out of the crowd, think about the following strategies:
- Ask funders for advice as to what can make you more relevant to them
- Relook at your mission and be true to your mission
- If you are doing too many programs and are stretched thin, what fewer areas can you focus on with quality?
- Do a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunity, Threats) of your organization with internal and external parties to view your organization from various perspectives
- Have a community needs assessment done and overlay that assessment with your programs to see if you are meeting community needs
- Study your competition in your market area to see what they are doing well and doing poorly. Copy the best of class methods
- Determine if you need community partners that would strengthen your organization over time
- Hire people with new and fresh perspectives from the outside who can quickly provide you with a new perspective
- Consider hiring consultants and marketing experts who deal with "pack separation issues" all of the time
- Hold an internal leadership retreat and discuss ways to make your organization stand out and be more relevant than before
The ultimate goal of any organization should be to become the golden rainbow trout of the trout pond. There is not one way of doing this correctly. It will take a variety of eyes, experiences and time. Think about your organization in five years, 10 years and later time frames. Establish a strategic plan and work the plan. Every organization should strive to be the best organization they can be in their particular area of service. The strongest charitable organizations will thrive over time while the weak organizations will fight to survive. What color is your trout?
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, IN plus Adjunct Professor for Olivet Nazarene University. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.