Do you really want to grow? Or are you just saying you want to grow?
Recently I was chatting with a Canadian nonprofit. They were talking about how they wanted to grow.
Then they said, “But we don’t want to collaborate with anyone, we don’t have any succession planning, we don’t want to make a fundraising plan, we’ve never had one, we don’t have a fundraising budget, we don’t want to use volunteers in any different ways, we don’t want to take government money, and we have only had a couple of program success stories in the last 5 years.”
Then they said, “So, how can you help us?”
Uh, well… you’ve just outlined your major problem. You don’t want to actually grow, because you don’t want to do what works.
I have proof that collaboration works, that succession and fundraising planning works, that giving volunteers different ways to interact with you creates more loyalty and future donors, and that your current success rate will need to change if you want to convince donors to help you grow.
But you’ve just shut down every way that could help you grow.
If this nonprofit was willing to listen, I would have said:
1. Collaboration is the best way to grow.
That means a couple of things. You could engage an agency, or a phone-a-thon team, and using their skills, raise a ton more money.
You could reach out to another nonprofit that does similar work in your area. You could raise so much more by collaboration- sharing stories of what worked and what didn’t work. Sharing with your supporters and grantors how you’re both good at different things, serving the same population.
2. Succession planning will help you grow.
If I were you I would look at this first. How are we poised to grow? Who is being groomed to be Executive director? (NOT A BOARD MEMBER). Who is being nurtured to be Development director? Who is being mentored to be a program director? What’s our turnover rate like? How can we convince people to stay?
3. Fundraising planning will help you grow.
This is pretty straightforward. You need to know what methods you’re using, when they happen, who does them, the goals, how much it costs to fundraise with that method, and try something new each year. You should also be asking, “WHY does this happen?” Are you doing major gifts? If not, why not? Is it because you don’t know how to do it? It’s the best way to fundraise. You can’t afford to NOT do it.
4. Having a fundraising budget is crucial to your growth.
I wish someone had told me this when I was working in small fundraising shops. You’ve got to be able to invest in your fundraising program, your database, your direct mail, your events, and your people. A budget will help you do all of that.
5. Managing volunteers and helping them do different, exciting things with your nonprofit will help you grow.
Your volunteers can be a source of new collaborations, new ideas, new board members, new monthly donors, even major donors. But if you’re not managing them, surveying them, asking them how they like to be engaged, or giving them different ways to engage, you’re not going to get any of these things. Investing in a volunteer coordinator who works hand in hand with your fundraising professional is essential.
Surprise. Your current success rate is a direct result of how you don’t have any of the above. You’re afraid of what you’ll find if you change. You’re afraid of making a fundraising plan, or budgeting for a fundraising success. You’re afraid of succession planning. You’re afraid of changing anything. So, everything stays the same. If you really want to grow, if you REALLY want to grow, then you need to start collaborating, learning from people around you, planning to succeed, and putting money behind your ideas. It’s scary to take that first step, but it’s important to help you succeed.