Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Strategic Planning 101: Finding your Niche

He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away. 
                                                                                            ~Raymond Hull

Chasing the dollar...

While fundraising is critical to the success and longevity of an organization, it should not determine the path of the organization.  Once an organization has a clear mission statement, it should craft objectives and methods that will assist in meeting the mission.  These objectives and methods will later be expanded or combined in logical ways to create programs.  These are the building blocks that will help your organization in meeting its mission.  These are the programs for which you should seek funding.

Sample:  The mission of the Minus-Vincent foundation is to provide students enrolled in public high schools with the educational tools they need to succeed in a college or university environment.  In an effort to achieve the mission of the organization, the Foundation provides standardized test preparation, tutoring, and study skills courses.  Within their strategic plan, they have developed several objectives and methods around these three areas.

Two Requests for Proposals (RFP) are issued one for financial literacy and one for substance abuse intervention.  Which fits with the organization's mission and is most closely aligned with those items included in the Foundation's strategic plan?

If you stated financial literacy, you are correct.  Financial literacy can be tailored and customized to fit the needs of teens that are applying to colleges. A program could be developed that would prepare teens to be responsible with money once they arrive on a college campus.  Substance abuse intervention is not mission-appropriate for the Minus-Vincent Foundation, while it could be argued that substance abuse prevention would be an area of expansion, substance abuse intervention is a stretch.  Substance abuse prevention is not an educational service, it would require a significant change in staffing, and the population served by the Foundation does not significantly overlap with the population served by a substance abuse intervention program. 

A strategic plan should be dynamic.  Any organization that creates a plan and allows it to sit on a shelf collecting dust is doing a great disservice to their agency.  A strategic plan should be visited regularly.  Programs should be evaluated for effectiveness and adjusted as needed.  The organization SHOULD seek to expand when the opportunity presents itself, but they should expand via mission-appropriate activities.  Organizations that chase the dollar will not be concentrating on those things that they do really well and thus, will be watering down their services.  It is important that agencies find their niche and stick with it!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Strategic Planning 101: Developing a Mission Statement

In an effort to secure funding, small non-profit organizations can easily lose sight of their mission.  The mission statement provides the foundation for strategic planning.  In fact, it provides the foundation for the organization and the work that it performs.

The mission of an organization should be clear, concise and easily understood.  It should be an integral part of the organization.  Every employee and board member should know your organization's mission statement and believe in it.  It should be broad enough to allow for organizational growth, yet narrow enough to provide structure.

Sample A:  The Minus-Vincent Foundation seeks to provide students enrolled in public high schools with the educational tools they need to succeed in a college or university environment.

Sample B:  The Minus-Vincent Foundation seeks to provide services to teens.

Sample C:  The Minus-Vincent Foundation seeks to provide counseling, teen pregnancy prevention, standardized test preparation, and substance use prevention services to adolescents, ages 14-17 who are enrolled at Franklin Roosevelt High School.

Which mission statement provides a concise overview of the agency's purpose?  Sample A.  

Sample A tells you the population the Foundation seeks to serve and the type of services it intends to provide.  Unlike Sample B, it provides some specificity, letting you know that the focus is on education and that enrollees must attend a public school.  Sample C provides too much specificity (it is more of an objective). Sample C locks the Foundation into limited services and severely limits the population to be served.  Sample C will not allow the Foundation to grow. 

A mission statement is critical to an organization.  It should be well thought out and created with the input of your relevant stakeholders.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

From Prospect to Donor

Everyone thinks that by finding a wealthy individual an organization has suddenly won the lottery--sad to say this is only the beginning.  Similar to dating, finding a donor is like exchanging phone numbers.  It is where the relationship starts and if you do not give the relationship time to develop, it will also be where it stops.  Using the dating analogy, donor cultivation can be summed up in five steps:

1.       You see each other across a crowded room.  Both the prospect and the organization see something in the other that sparks their interest.  The donor may be a patient or a parent involved in your organization.  Somehow their path has crossed yours.  They are interested in your mission and you are interested in them.
2.      You exchange numbers.  Both the prospect and the organization want to know more about the other.  This step manifests itself as increased donor research on the part of the organization using a variety of tools, including:  anecdotal data from others who know your prospect, internet research, or even packaged products such as Wealthpoint or WealthEngine or the Researcher’s Edge. 
3.      You plan your first date.  The organization encourages the prospect to become more involved in the organization either through invitations to planned events or a special meeting set up to better inform the donor of the organizations’ mission and plans for the future.  And while you may want to only talk about “yourself” or the organization, the key is to listen.  Listen to the donor’s specific interests. 
4.      Flowers, candy, and courting.  If you listened well enough on the first date, you will know how to follow-up with your prospect.  Is he an art lover? Did she just have her gall bladder removed?  Whatever the case, find a way to reconnect via a note attached to an interesting article about gall stones, an invitation to see the upcoming school play, or a strategically timed e-mail to let him/her know that you enjoyed the time you spent together.  Courting, as in romance, is by far the most time consuming and involved piece of the puzzle. 
5.      The First Kiss.  Once you have courted your prospect, it is time to make an ask.  With sweaty hands and the fear of rejection…you move in for “the moment”.  But unlike romance, this is not spontaneous and if done right it will not be a one night stand.  It is done after careful research, knowing just the amount to ask for, and what project will most closely resonate with the donor.

And we all know that once you get past the first kiss…if you play your cards right, stay committed to the relationship and continue to demonstrate interest, it is not long before you hit a home run!  Changing a prospect to a donor is simply about being a great listener and a good storyteller.  You need to listen to the prospect's story and be willing to share with them the story of the organization.  It is only when you determine where these stories intersect that you will truly see a match made in heaven!