Tagged: growth

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.

Use these mid winter months to GROW, not slow, your organizations philanthropy

Most nonprofits experience a significant lull in donations and donor activity in the months of January and February. The post year end doldrums.

Donors are slow to give, having distributed their 2010 charitable contributions during the ebullience of the holiday season.

Consumers are recovering from gift purchases.

The weather makes for hermits, with snow, ice and early nightfall urging more indoor, stay at home activities.

And snow birds have fled for warmer climates, leaving their local neighbors and friends to fend until spring.

This is the perfect time to grow your philanthropy program!

No other time in the calendar year do you have the potential to capture your audience’s undivided attention.

With all of the inactivity your donor and prospective donor is engaged in, you can offer a variety of options to help keep them entertained and informed, from the comfort of their warm living rooms.

  • Give them good reading for a cold winters night. January and February are the perfect time to send out newsy information on your group, your past success, your future plans.  Make sure your communication is meaty and news worthy, capturing the weather dulled eye of your constituency.
  • And to make sure those e-newsletters get to the right place, this is a perfect time to clean up your database.  With the reduced number of donations being processed and less visits to be made, your staff should spend time tidying up. Use an email verification software provider or staff can correspond and validate emails themselves. Capture address and phone while you are at it.
  • While you’re assessing, audit your grant programs, ensuring that you are on track with grantors expectations.  Send love notes to all your grantors, with New Year greetings and a true note of appreciation for what their funding has provided to your clients/mission.
  • Spruce up your website, e-newsletters and social marketing plans for the coming year.  Increase the frequency with which you are sending e-notices on your organizations marketing efforts, driving traffic to your newly spiffed up site.
  • Your staff has unique insight and talent, let others know! Identify media outlets and negotiate opportunities for your staff to contribute articles or podcasts on activities of interest, connected to your mission. A schools newsletter might appreciate a guest blogger or author writing about the importance of home support in education. A local grocer might find an article from an expert in the field of nutrition, valuable in their marketing to their customers.  Nows the time to get those pieces written and published. And don’t dismiss national journals. They need good writing too.
  • Lay the ground work for your spring appeal. Collectively send out notice to your annual donors, giving them insight and a sneak peak at your case for the spring and summer months.
  • Train your board. Your board meets regularly and has clearly defined agendas. Make the January or February agenda one that focuses on philanthropy.  A little bit of elbow grease and knowledge sharing by the board, will prepare them for an active and engaged year.
  • If you are planning a feasibility study, plan to launch it now. Most study participants can be reached by phone or online, so travel is less necessary.  Staff has more time to devote to feasibility study efforts. And the sobering months of January and February will flavor the feedback from your constituents, providing a more realistic and conservative view of your organizations ability to raise those funds through a campaign.

Engaging Your board In Fundraising: Framing Your Perspective

So in my last post we talked a little bit about Passion in your Board being the driving force for Philanthropy. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Lets bring it back to the beginning.

In order to be open to new ideas, its essential we frame our own perspective on the boards involvement in fundraising.

Whats important to know is why bother? We all know that it is often easier to just do it ourselves. The board asks too many questions, is too resistant. Doesn’t believe, isn’t invested, doesn’t even give themselves. They are too judgemental, demanding and disconnected. They are naive and lack the fundamental education to be effective. They are more interested in the type of potatoes to serve at the next gala, or the color of the napkins. Maybe what time to tee off at the golf tournament, or whether its a scramble or best ball format.

Is this how you see your board?

A board’s legal role is to govern and act as fiduciary authority for the nonprofit organization. By their position, their involvement in fundraising is expected. Additionally, their presence on your board puts them on stage. The community is watching. If the community sees a board not raising money for the organization, then the community sees an organization that matters little with regard to their own donation. If the board isn’t involved, then why should they be. Board involvement in fundraising (not only giving of their money but being involved in raising it) validates the nonprofits mission. Nothing will kill an NPO faster than an invisible board of directors.

Also, no organization is an island. It would be virtually impossible for one Exec Director and a fundraising staffer to go out and raise all the money needed to survive. Its a Sisyphean endeavor. But with the board invested AND involved we have tripled and quadrupled our opportunities to get the job done. The network of your board and their networks network, act as a funnel flipped on its side to share the burden and increase the return.

Legal accountability, organizational validation and increased outreach/expanded return, three solid reasons why getting your board involved is critical to the success of fundraising in your organization.

So if its this important, then why cant they get out there and help?

Well here is the reason. And you’re not going to like it. Maybe I’ll lose my followers at this point, but the reality is:

Most board issues are not about the board, but about us.

There, I said it. And for those of you still reading, here is why.

If asked, here is what board members will say about why they are resistant to getting involved in fundraising. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it is a good representation of some of the most commonly heard complaints:

No education

Too overwhelming

Too embarrassing (no skill)

Not aware what they were signing up for

No money themselves

Fear of rejection

Or fear that they are asking too much of someone, something the other can’t part with.

Lack of confidence in plan, process, person, organization

Disinterested

I had a board member say to me once, she would rather shrivel up and die, than ask for money. That’s hard core resistance.

What they say and what they feel are actually two very separate things, but connected. Most boards resist fundrasing because we have not done our job in leading and administering the fundraising effort. We too often lack concrete goals, lack clarity in board roles, we offer hazy expected objectives/outcomes of their efforts, we develop poor organization of the donor pool, we lack research on prospects, we have ineffective communication of organizational success, and so on and so forth. When they say its overwhelming, we have to ask- Are we being clear and concise in our goals? Is the prospect information simply understood, specific and relevant? Is the process organized and direct, with concrete outcomes, strategy and actions steps? Do we have valid measurements to share? When they say they are embarrassed, have we done our job in bringing the mission into the board room, developing passion, choosing the right board members? I can hazard a guess that the early board members of Susan G. Komen Foundation were not embarrassed about fundraising, as they had the passion for the mission, they were the right people for the job.

Being responsible for our board not fundraising doesn’t make us bad or not worthy of support. It does make us take inventory of our internal operations, our strategy, our board development and our leadership, in developing the best possible framework for the board to fundraise within. And thats were our control comes into play.

In my next post we will talk about some of these controls, starting with developing our board of directors to be an engaged, passionate board.

“Locard’s Exchange Principle” or “Some armchair philosophy to start your morning”

When someone comes in contact with another person or place, something of that person is left behind, and something is taken away.
“Locard’s Exchange Principle”

Edmund Locard was a 20th century forensic scientist and director of the first crime lab in Lyon, France in 1910.
His theory postulates that wherever two things meet, evidence exists of their meeting. In his case, he was speaking in terms of crimes against humanity.
But in recent years, his theory has been used in terms of more positive meetings as well. Although it continues to be used in crimes, including white collar crimes of a business and financial nature, it has been applied to explore interactions that result in the advancement of positive outcomes: mentoring, coaching, management, consumerism and philanthropy.

How does the theory apply to you in a positive way? What ‘fingerprints’ exist due to your personal contact with others. Globally it is evident that the work of nonprofit organizations change individual lives. But Locard was speaking on a more singular interaction, the one on one imprint of a conversation, written communication, action.
A mentor hypothesized yesterday that “relationships are the conversation”. That everything else before and after: your thoughts, inner dialogue, intentions are not a relationship, it exists only within the communication you are having with the other person. And to review that communication, in the moment and after, to assess your relationship.
How often do we think in terms of communicating with the intention of enhancing the relationship? Of the relationship as a means of leaving an imprint, of employing Locards theory?

I for one believe Locards theory can be applied universally. Maybe it deserves a plaque above our desks, on our walls, on our hearts, to help us remember that we are not moving through this world alone, but in connection and concert with everyone and everything around us. And that we are leaving an imprint.
Talk about authenticity.

Dancing

Relationships are like a dance. Each person has a choreography script of steps in their head. This choreography script has been built over time, based on other dances we held a part in. The script is dynamic, but we may think its static.

Shuffle – ball- change left and you expect your partner to respond. Many times he/she does and that’s a positive reinforcement for your dance move. But when they don’t dance in the direction we expect, things can go horribly wrong. We can miss our connections, trip over each other, step on each others toes. God forbid its in the middle of a high twirl and toss, we could miss the catch completely!  Totally unsatisfying and non-productive.

Many times we expect that others will not only know our script, but will respond to it in a certain way. Our experience when they don’t can leave us feeling like we have two left feet.

Other times we wonder why, when we are sashaying right, they are responding with a dosy doe? We don’t think of changing our own steps to meet theirs, or to encourage their rewriting of their choreography script.

A relationship, like dancing, is a partnership and it relies on not only good communication, but an open mind to changing our own steps to meet our partners. Be free with it, not rigid, dynamic, not static and you will be surprised by your own facile growth and your partners responsive nature.