Getting It Right the First Time
In these columns I address real-life obstacles and challenges that nonprofits face in creating sustainable funding to deliver their missions and achieve their goals. Readers write via email (info@TheEightPrinciples.com) to receive quick consultations and perhaps have their particular problems addressed in a future article.
Today, I want to relate to you the situation of an executive director of a land trust who reached out to me. She finds herself at a crossroads for the organization she serves. For a number of years, this organization has been successful in acquiring land to place in trust — some would say very successful. During the last year or so, however, she's noticed a plateauing of interest and, also, in new donors to the cause.
Being a "take charge" kind of woman, the executive polled current and even potential new supporters to get their take on the organization, its work and why they're involved at all. What she learned was stunning — and a text-book case in generational shifts in philanthropy.
The forward-thinking director contacted me at the point when she wanted some guidance regarding a total repositioning of the organization both in regard to its mission and how it engages its supporters.
The place she wanted to begin this undertaking was typical. She wanted to change the organization's name. Upon changing the name, then she would proceed to "rebrand" its communications, expand the mission statement and then broaden the support base — in that order. She has good board support and intends to use the board appropriately along the way.
My response to her was, well-meaning as her intentions are, she was making a common mistake made by organizations when they make a mission or cultural shift. She wanted to start with the most obvious, most immediate place to make a change — the name.
When making an organizational shift, we almost always want to start with a process, a thing that is easy to see and, hopefully, immediate in its impact. The place to begin, however, is with understanding the principles that are involved and operating in the situation.
In every fundraising situation, there are certain immutable strategic principles that are always operating — whether or not you're even aware of them. I've even written a book about them.
Once you're aware of the principles that are governing your particular situation, then proceed to create a paradigm — a mental construct — of the change that fits both within the principles, which never change, and your particular organization, which can change.
Once you've developed your paradigm and gotten buy-in from leadership, applying the right process — getting the right new name in her case — is a snap. Literally.
My response to the young executive was to start in the right place, mentally and organizationally. We're all aware of organizations in which a name change may have indeed been called for. Unfortunately, that was the first change made, not the last. In such a situation, hitting the mark with supporters becomes all but impossible but the blowback from them very predictable.
The organization in question has a strong track record and a strong following. Successfully refocusing the organization's mission will only strengthen the health and impact of this worthy nonprofit.
I want to thank the forward-looking and strategic-thinking executive director for reaching out to me.
Please let me hear from you concerning your particular situation and the difficulties you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me (info@TheEightPrinciples.com), and I'll give you a quick response. I'll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Whether your organization is small or large, well-heeled or struggling from day to day, you'll benefit immeasurably from taking a good, hard look at whether your organization spends more of its time in the fundraising emergency room or makes planned visits to the wellness clinic. You'll learn what sends you to the emergency room and how not to go there — anymore than you absolutely must.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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