As 2021 begins there are Black-led organizations and historically Black colleges and universities that are financially stronger than they were last year. These include nonprofits who benefited when foundations and corporations used a “racial equity lens” to guide their giving; and HBCUs who received windfall gifts. There are also organizations who want to attract attention and giving. This column is for all; it is encouragement as the year begins.
Here’s what we know, believe, and teach: fundraising is ongoing, it doesn’t take a break, there is no “vacation.” Fundraising – and fund development – is an organization’s commitment to its sustainability. It is the way leaders, participants, neighbors, and stakeholders reaffirm the importance of an institution, and ensure its future. If you received increased government funding, a windfall gift, or a growth in your annual giving last year, we ask that you don’t fall prey to a false sense of security. In the world of fundraising, last year’s gifts are last year’s gifts. You have to focus on this year and the years ahead.
That means you must continue to invest in fundraising: invest time, money, staffing and your best thinking. If you benefitted from increased giving, work to continue those gifts. Invite new donors to become “family,” and not visiting guests. Meet with them, or their representatives as possible. Share how you will use their gift; communicate the anticipated impact it will make.
Whether you received new money or not, take time to build on the momentum active within philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. Leverage this historic moment: people who can give are looking at who they have overlooked. They are changing their giving, understanding how important it is to ensure that Black and Brown organizations are well staffed and capable of meeting the diverse needs and desires of those they serve.
Take time to document your organization’s vision, especially now that so much has changed. Share what you need to do differently; what’s core to your work; your successes and your challenges. Share your plans and let people know how they can help you bring them to life. Anticipate your needs and communicate them. If there’s a “little more” you need in order to get the most benefit from public funding, or a one-time gift, tell people exactly what you need.
As the year starts, plan for the year end. Define how you will measure impact, and how you will report on the money you’ve spent. If you receive a new major investment, think about what questions your community may have, and proactively answer them. Plan for how to get ahead of any rumors or misconceptions that may arise.
In 2020 our clients collectively received over $75 million in what can be considered “new money.” Our goal is to help them sustain and grow above and beyond the major investments they’ve received: we want them to sustain over decades with strong boards, a committed group of major donors, and engaged community support. We want the same for you. Happy New Year!
[Copyright 2021 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you find your way through this unknown time. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.]