Topic: Executive Coaching

Capacity Building

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If we ask any of our nonprofit prospects and clients, what is there biggest challenge besides fundraising, the answer is invariably “building capacity“.

Capacity building is a broad term that encompasses “actions that improve nonprofit effectiveness”. According to a journal released by the Foundation Center in 2003 entitled “Investing in Capacity Building: A Guide to High-Impact Approaches”, capacity building can take many forms, including:

  • Professional development for staff and board members
  • Opportunities for peer learning, networking or leadership development
  • Creating or re-examining organizational plans
  • Initiating collaboration with other nonprofits
  • Developing new sources for earned income
  • Utilizing pro bono support for high-impact projects

Many of the community foundations and professional associations for nonprofits with whom we work offer numerous opportunities for capacity building- from grants directly to the organizations to bring on talent, expand knowledge and build strategy; to offering workshops, seminars and conferences from which the nonprofits can learn.

Yet we are still talking about capacity building over a decade later. If we know these things mentioned prior can work, what isn’t working?

Our firm has studied this issue for two years. We have worked with over 1000 prospective clients in trying to establish a solution set that met their needs and their budget.  We’ve heard from each of them as to what they have tried to do on their own and with help from foundations, associations and in some cases universities. What we learned was that for each one, where the process of capacity building fell apart was in execution.

Good ideas, strategy, recommendations, action steps, all are excellent in theory but will fail the nonprofit if they feel unable to execute. Some obstacles to execution are time and resources, confidence and experience, and accountability.

Of the thousands of prospects and clients we spoke with, about 80% were deserving, viable nonprofits. They have neither the resources nor the time or support needed to truly benefit from a contract for private consulting support.

after our study of this issue, we built what we believe to be a game changing answer to the capacity building issue for these nonprofits.

BLOSSOM

When we realized the scope of this problem, we thought, what if we could create a learning lab, curating the best of educational videos, podcasts, journal articles, and books, in which nonprofit executives could reliably and affordably access these tools in an online workspace, at any time. And what if we supported each learner with a private coach, who would have complete access to their learning progress in the lab, evaluating and mentoring them through assignment completion and assessments, and meet with the learner by phone, skype or google hangout once a month for 90 minutes.

And then what if we could provide an upfront assessment for the learner and the coach and learner could identify one looming key performance issue in the organization that they want to create a long term project around, affecting real time change to the nonprofits outcomes.

And finally what if we assembled six learners in a team, where they could interact, share ideas and have rich discussions around topics relevant to the nonprofit industry, effecting their organizations?

Around these assumptions we built BLOSSOM: The Virtual Incubator for Nonprofit Executives.

The incubator is a twelve month program, covering fifteen different nonprofits business topics. Learners start with an assessment on their influence style and on their organizations health. From these assessments the coach will develop leadership learning opportunities and will define with the learner their long term project. The Learner receives an online workspace that has the best of curated educational materials, tools, and templates, along with a resource library of additional information and downloadables. Learners are assembled with five other executives, for teams of six, who meet once per month online to discuss general nonprofit topics of interest. They also hold each other accountable for the progress and completion of their long term projects. The program culminates with a review of real time outcomes acheived, completion of the long term project, and a new network of colleagues and support members to continue the growth and sustainability acheived.

Early feedback was overwhelmingly rejoiceful! Yes, rejoiceful, lol!  Brilliant was one word used, Something I can really rely on for change in my organization was another phrase heard often.

We would love to get your feedback. Request access to the Free Trial Module and tell us what you think!

Email us for acccess to your FREE TRIAL MODULE

roots@harvestdevelopmentgrp.com or call us at 888-586-1103 ex2 to get immediate entry to the trial.

Capital Campaigns as Transformative Projects

Capital Campaigns are incredible projects – consuming of immense amounts of resources, but the returns of which can be transformative for your organization.

Capital Campaigns are important strategies to include in your organizations long term philanthropy development plans. Campaigns that are integrated (including all of the organizations’ stakeholders in its design and implementation);  unified (with the goal of raising campaign funds as well as enhancing and improving annual and other donations); and are strategically designed, have the power to change the level and quality of your fundraising forever.

Campaigns have a history of being synonymous with specialized one time fundraising, while the reality is that most organizations today operate campaigns on a regular basis, completing one as they are planning and launching another.  Such is the need for large capital project development for any nonprofit organization, whether you be hospital, school, church or social service. The good news is that this has changed the culture of philanthropy for your donor base. They are more attuned to the segmentation of capital needs vs operating needs for programs and service delivery. And many major donors are considering the next campaign project for your organization, as they prepare their own giving strategy.

Preparing for your capital campaign begins with a feasibility study, six to twelve months before you host your first campaign meeting of volunteers.

Studying What is Feasible

A feasibility study is a specialized process in which analysis is conducted on your organizations ability, capacity and capabilities to successfully operate a capital campaign. Studies show a 92 percent success rate for campaigns preceded by feasibility/planning studies.  A study is traditionally facilitated by a consulting group, such as Harvest Development Group. Through experience with other studies, as well as by providing third party anonymity to study participants, more accurate data is collected and assessed when a feasibility study is lead by a consulting firm, resulting in better decisions in the construction and launch of your campaign. Results of the feasibility study are developed and presented in a report that outlines not only your organizations internal ability to operate a campaign (human resources, data collection tools,  organizational capability to devote time and money to a campaign), but also to the external capacity for campaign success.

How is a Campaign’s Financial Goal Set?

The financial goal of your campaign cannot be determined without a study. Your campaign goal is not how much you need, but by how much you can be forecasted to raise. Taking a measurement of past giving history, donor statistics, environmental issues impacting your efforts, as well as time and human resources available, your feasibility study consultant will project a range in which you can rely on campaign funding, if all activities are implemented as directed. This range is a more realistic and reliable goal than using the cost of your project as a campaign goal. In many cases the goal revealed through your feasibility study will be sent back to your project planning and/or finance committee for consideration, as it will affect the projects scope and funding plans. Without a study to determine how much can be raised, it would be folly to start out a campaign, fundraising to reach an artificial and unknown amount. Worse is to ignore the feasibility study determination and set an artificially increased goal. No organization can benefit from falling short financially on a capital campaign, it does more harm than any of the good from the effort.

Who Do We Ask?

Another outcome from your feasibility study is analysis of your current and potential donor base to the campaign. A well facilitated study will determine best prospects, range of gifts (as a gift chart) and the number of gifts required, and a categorized donor base for consideration. Imagine an infographic outlining who to ask, how much to ask for and when to make the ask. With this information you can confidently move into planning and implementation with a visualization of how you can be successful.

Planning for your Campaign

After your feasibility study is completed, your organization has to take the next step- planning for, launching and operating your campaign. Feasibility studies are time sensitive, because it deals with dynamic data. The data revealed and used for results in your feasibility study has an expiration date, like milk. Waiting too long after a feasibility study is completed for your campaign to begin, can be detrimental to your campaign.  Sometimes waiting too long to launch after a study is completed  results in money being left on the table, because the information used has changed drastically for the better.  It would be horrible to ask a donor for an amount that is too low, because the study was produced with information three years prior! Worse, and more common, is a campaign delayed resulting in missed goals due to donors leaving, other organizations in the community launching their own campaign, project costs increasing, etc. Ideally, study results are valid for about six to twelve months, but no longer. Be certain that your organization is ready to move forward when the feasibility study is completed.

As with the feasibility study, the planning, launching and implementation of your capital campaign benefits tremendously by bringing in counsel. Don’t try to save money in this area, as a good consulting firm will not only help you raise more money but save you money as well.

Develop our Volunteer Leaders

Your feasibility study will have delivered a list of potential volunteers for your campaign effort. Include these individuals in your campaign committees as well as your board. Begin to inspire, organize and engage your volunteer campaign members immediately after your feasibility study ends, while the experience of being interviewed and the buzz of the study is still fresh in their minds. Preparing your committees and drafting your plan will be a four month project at least, given the busyness and chaotic schedules of volunteers and competing organizational priorities.

Pieces of the Plan

Planning for your campaign requires attention to details in a broad area. Staffing is critical, and plans may need to be developed to increase staffing temporarily to assist with campaign or back office workloads. In addition, operational tools for managing the campaign will be essential- CRM software, Data management, material production, media and distribution lines for campaign materials. Financial forecasts should be developed in collaboration with finance, so everyone invested in the financial outcomes has a schedule of when the funds can be anticipated for use.  Internal policies and procedures for campaign implementation are to be developed as guiding and aligning instruments. Crafting a campaign case statement that is inspiring, informative and catalytic is an early planning activity. Additionally, prospect development and solicitation briefs and strategies set the foundation for your cultivation’s and asks. Good counsel will lead and facilitate all of this and more as you move toward your campaign launch date.

Campaigns Added Benefits

Although campaigns require a significant investment of time and resources – expect to spend about 20% of your campaign goal on the planning and implementation of your campaign- the return in campaign funding, future funding, increased donor base, increased visibility and internal enthusiasm and engagement for your mission is invaluable and well worth the investment. A well organized and operated campaign can change your organization for ever.

 

For further information or to speak about how a  campaign can help your organization reach new heights contact Harvest Development Group, LLC at   roots@harvestdevelopmentgrp.com    or    at    860-575-5132

SHIFT: Meeting Corporate Philanthropy Where It’s Headed- An Introduction

This is the start of a four week series on corporate philanthropy, based on research, best practices and personal experience from the field. We’ll keep it entertaining and packed with good useful information that will help you develop your own Corporate Giving program. To follow along, bookmark and check back daily, or subscribe to the blog using the button at the bottom of this page (left side).  But don’t just follow along.  Ask questions, challenge observations, make recommendations, share your own experience, invite friends to participate.

Many of us have been in the philanthropy industry for years….maybe even decades…and we have much to lean on when we think about corporate giving. We know it is changing, it’s evident around us, and we know it has evolved over time, through some pretty hairy and weird years, to some truly meaningful examples. I’m going to ask us to set all of that aside for the next few weeks.

Let me start with a short, true, story to help us understand perspective and prepare our frame of mind. This story came to me from a friend.
“Years back a group of scientists in New Guinea visited a tribe who believed their world ended at the river. After several months, one of the scientists had to leave, which involved crossing the river. Safely across the river, he turned and waved at the tribesman he had left behind. They did not respond, because they said they did not see him. Their entrenched beliefs about their world had distorted their perception of reality.”

But changing  beliefs can be hard, right?

Let me give you an example.

Look at this door panel of squares. Now stare at the X in the center and think circles. What happens?

The circles that appeared when you thought ‘circles’, are an example of a shift in your perception of reality.
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

That’s why, in this series on corporate philanthropy, I’m asking you to abandon your old beliefs, your old perceptions about what you think you know about corporate giving, and become open to new understandings. In the words of our old friend Stephen Covey: Seek first to understand.

This month of posts on meeting corporate philanthropy where it’s headed, will help us to understand the influences on corporations as they strategize their giving efforts. We’ll identify influences on the sector. We’ll connect with company  goals and needs, and explore key behaviors in winning partnerships.  Not winning in the Charlie Sheen way, but in the way that provides outcomes and benefits for both the corporation AND the nonprofit partners.

A busy few weeks, but worth the investment if you want to create sustainable, efficient and effective corporate philanthropy revenue streams.

So join in, ask questions, engage, share, learn, enjoy.