There’s a lot of pressure today to do something big, make an extraordinary impact, raise a lot of money. Nonprofits are feeling the pressure to respond to the needs of the times, and to pivot towards a new future. Some philanthropists and foundations are offering large sums of money to support these big-time changes.
That’s all well and good, and in many instances the investments being made are long overdue. But we want you to remember who you are, what your mission and vision is, and to evaluate each call to action or potential investment with a clear-headed assessment of your capacity and infrastructure.
Here’s what we mean. Do you have the people, knowledge, expertise, relationships, technology, systems and processes to support what you are being called upon to do? While your organization may have a transformative vision, where is it in its life-cycle in terms of experience with designing, piloting, implementing, tracking, evaluating, and reporting on projects?
You may be offered gifts and grants that will finance long-delayed or under-funded projects and programs, but can you execute in the expected time frame? As noted above, there is a lot that goes into success. Money is pivotal, but not all that’s needed. We advise board members, CEOs and donors and staff to have honest conversations with government agencies, foundations, individuals, or corporate donors about what it will really take to do what they are asking you to do. Too often money is offered that is “just enough to not fail, and not enough to win.” Your organization may be forced to grow faster than you can manage, because you are working to meet someone else’s goals without the capacity and infrastructure to support your success. Here are two things to consider:
First, define what you will need to do what is being asked of you. Write it up as a narrative, define the type of people you will need; identify your technology and systems needs; create an initial draft budget. Then ask someone else to look at it and give you their guidance. Go back and revise. Share with those who want to invest in your organization – or who you want as partners, donors, or funders.
Second, get a taste of success. Start with projects you believe to be achievable with your current level of staff and volunteers. Structure projects so those involved are supported and can see that their involvement and skills contribute to tangible successes. As your team experiences a taste of success, you should also be looking for talented people to join them. Take time to assess your organization’s current capacity and identify the additional skills and expertise you need to add to your staff and board. Identify specific people who meet your criteria, and implement a plan to explore if, when, and how they would want to be involved and in what role. Carefully recruit the right board members, volunteers, and staff – know what you need to do and find people who can do it!
Start with what you do well.
Copyright 2021 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2021. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.