Friday, January 13, 2012

Five Reasons to Refresh Your Non-profit Organization’s Funding Strategy

What is “refreshing your non-profit funding strategy”? It’s gathering and studying your non-profit organization’s income opportunities for evaluation before selecting the excellent ones to pursue. Why is this helpful? We find five major benefits for non-profit organizations:

1. Fresh Motivation. Is it hard to motivate someone to chair your “tried and true” special event? Frankly, it is hard to motivate yourself to get an annual appeal letter ready? Or, call potential sponsors? If you are bored by how you obtain income, chances are you are not alone. While some work maybe a tad dull and starting anything requires a bit of a leap over inertia, fresh clarity and an improved certainty of outcomes makes every job easier. Because you can see they will work, refreshed funding strategies excite and motivate.

2. Get With the Times. Even if you wish it wasn’t so, the market where non-profit organizations operate changed dramatically in the last five years. Every one of your funding streams experienced changes. It is smart to acknowledge this reality. Yet, even though my crystal ball broke, in the shards I see continue to see incredible opportunity. Donors, customers, volunteers, and board members continue to develop new expectations about their funding relationships with you: new expectations that yield new opportunities. It’s smart to study the impact of changes to reduce and eliminate unpleasant surprises— and to take advantage of new opportunities.

3. Embrace the Best. Even if at times you feel stuck identifying funding opportunities, the truth is this: you have too many opportunities. Your greatest need is to know where to invest your time and discard efforts for so-so opportunities, as soon as possible. You need funding strategies that provide the most outcomes (money or resources) with the least work –over time. Refreshing your funding strategies helps you to identify these vital opportunities.

4. Educate. Your funding strategy may fit your nonprofit and organization’s skills and community perfectly. However, it is highly likely many near you do not understand it or “the why” behind it. If you hear a lot of far-fetched ideas, refreshing your funding strategy can help the sharers to move their energy to your strategy and away from collecting wacky ideas, since they seek to help. On the other hand, if you hear worthwhile ideas, refreshing your funding strategy is the place to air and evaluate options using rational criteria and to compare them to your existing efforts—rather than making a quick decision in the hallway between meetings.

5. Lost Funding. The number one reason to refresh your funding strategy is because you are missing opportunities to increase your funds. Enough said.

What benefits have you found from refreshing your funding strategy?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Is DonorEdge, The Giving Partner or Whatever Its Called Worth It?

Last month, I met with Mark Brewer. Mark leads the Community Foundation of Central Florida. While our visit concerned the needs of non-profit organizations in Central Florida for my funding strategy innovations, we talked a lot about DonorEdge. (Brewer’s organization calls their version of this Guidestar product, “The Knowledge Base.” The Community Foundation of Sarasota* named theirs, “The Giving Partner.”) Central Florida has used it for several years.

Coincidentally, the same week, I put the finishing touches on Selby Garden’s profile for The Giving Partner. What was the process like? Susie Bowie was extremely helpful. The on-line system worked well. The questions were neither difficult nor long. Yet, while the questions weren’t hard, the decisions behind them were challenging. Many involved an assessment of the best answer to give to further the Gardens’ donor development strategy. Questions like, “Which picture is best to use since we can only use one?” and, “What are the five most pressing needs?” involved thinking and planning. The work wasn’t hard, but the strategy and thought behind it were intense. So, what was the process really like? In all honesty, demanding. Yes, you can fill out the profile in several hours, but if you want it to be a tool to support your overall funding strategy, like the Gardens did, it will take lots more.

During the process, I wondered, as you will probably wonder if you take a serious approach, “Is this worth it?” After filling out a profile and talking to Mark Brewer and learning how Central Florida is using it, the answer is “Yes.” Here’s why I recommend you get out your welcome mat for it:

1. Important Information to Share. You want a current profile about your organization to give to potential donors. In all honesty, do you have it? You will with DonorEdge.

2. Sector Enrichment. The nonprofit sector, compared to other sectors, is data poor. DonorEdge helps to close the gap. How big is the average nonprofit board in Bradenton? What is the total amount of capital campaign funding being sought in Orlando? Now, we can learn and share these and similar facts.

3. Your New Wiki. You will soon use DonorEdge to answer quick questions. Filling out your profile teaches you what’s available. Once underway, you will be able to find out about someone else’s mission, an executive director’s background and key programs of other nonprofits by typing in their name and selecting a tab. My prediction: you will use it to look up everything from the important, what are their board members affiliations, to the curious, how long has the executive director been in place.

4. Donor Support. A profile placed in a database on the Internet will by itself drive few donations. However, a well-done profile which quickly provides donors considering funding your non-profit organization the peace of mind that allows them to write you that sizable check or click a donate now button. This 24-7 availability, allows you to sleep soundly, while your donor confirms your excellence at 2 a.m.

If you are struggling to fill out your profile, take heart. From what I’ve learned, it is worth your effort. If you have yet to develop a profile, get out your welcome mat and get started. What has your experience been?
* The Giving Partner is a partnership of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Manatee Community Foundation—with support from The Patterson Foundation.