Successful nonprofit fundraising doesn't just happen. It takes planning and preparation. It also requires an understanding and agreement regarding the organization's mission, vision, strategic direction, goals, and financial position. We know that many times people want to begin fundraising right away. "We need money; we don't have time to do all that," is a common cry.
That may be true. And, you may be able to raise money without going through the "trouble" of ensuring understanding and agreement on the above items. But, you can only go so far without doing this work. Here is what we have learned: understanding and agreement, or the lack of these, will inform your fundraising.
Successful fundraising begins long before a fundraising plan is ever created. It starts with your organization's vision and mission. These two items are at the core of nonprofit operations. It is the vision and mission that drive the strategic direction and goals. And it is the strategic direction that influences fundraising and the use of funds.
Defining the vision and mission can be a group process, but it needs to begin with the chief executive for your organization. He is responsible for ensuring board members, employees and volunteers understand these, and agree with them. He needs to live and breathe the vision and mission. He is also responsible for ensuring the organization's strategic direction – as documented in the strategic plan – are rooted in the mission and vision.
Your vision and mission should be short and concise. One or two sentences at most, if possible. Your strategic plan can be as simple or as complex as your organization requires. We are partial to a short, clearly written plan that includes easy-to-understand and easy-to-measure goals and objectives.
Sometimes the vision, mission and strategic directions are documented, but they exist primarily on paper and are not the heartbeat of the organization. Things may have changed since they were written. For example, new board members or employees may have joined the organization and may not have participated in an orientation session that communicated these. Or, maybe the needs of the community have changed and the vision and mission need to be updated. You may have achieved the goals of your last strategic plan but not yet created a new one. These are good things to know – and to take action on.
If your vision, mission and strategic plan need revising, take the time to do so. Once these are in place, it is the chief executive's responsibility to ensure they are understood, that the board and employees are in agreement with them, and that they are put into action.
Working in this way contributes to fundraising success, as fundraising goals need to tie to your strategic plan and its implementation. © Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw.
Next week: Understanding our organization's financial position.
[Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They provide fundraising counsel locally and nationwide. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.]