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Archive for January, 2014

Strategic Thinking IV: Preparing for “the Ask”

Next step in our Development progression for our Nonprofit Organization is to prepare to Ask for the Gift.

We’ve focused on the importance of Strategic Thinking for the Board. And application of this approach to the Fundraising direction our Nonprofit will take. Now we’ll jump to asking for the gift.

This post comes in January, the month after most nonprofits have conducted their Annual Appeal. So our donor base has heard from us, and many have responded with their annual gift. and if we’re well organized, we’re preparing a follow up appeal to non-responders, asking them to consider us now. And just maybe you donors who missed you in the fall will reconsider now and make that gift to help you achieve your Mission. We won’t know unless we ask.

There should be a next step in place…beyond the Stewardship part of thanking our donors who make their gifts.

And that next step might be a mid-year appeal to come in May-June. Or, it might be a special project that we’d like our supporters to consider. And this time, we want to expand the group who get a personal visit as part of this ask. And we want Board members and other volunteers to make these calls…these personal visits…to obtain support.

Board members according to Kay Sprinkel Grace, fall into one of three categories. All are Ambassadors who think to speak up about this Nonprofit when they’re out with friends, at work, or at Rotary. Some are Advocates who are comfortable speaking at public hearings, presenting about the Mission at Foundation meetings, testifying on regulation proposals that impact our primary customers before governmental agencies. And then there are Askers: Those who feel good about giving, and feel good about asking others to give. These are the leaders who see the value this Nonprofit delivers an welcome the opportunity to seek support. Face to face. Not all Board members feel this way; but each year leaders work to increase the group who feel good about being Askers.

So this is the time to prepare for what’s ahead in the coming months. It may be the annual mid-year appeal. It may be a special campaign for a special purpose. Whatever the purpose, we’re preparing now for that process to get underway. And that’s the crux of this phase of Strategic Thinking.

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Strategic Thinking III: No Money, No Mission

We want our Nonprofit Boards of Directors to be thinking strategically. The work of the board needs to be in the area of direction-setting for the Nonprofit. Operations are the staff’s business. Strategy is the Board’s.

Of course, we want the strategies to be sound. To fit with the mission. To make sense within the context of the Nonprofit Strategic Plan.

Some of this thinking (and doing) is in the realm of Fundraising. And kicking that thinking up a notch to the level of Development. Development assumes there’s some relationship building going on; that it’s not just about asking for money. What’s the driving purpose behind the ask? Somewhere in there needs to be the Nonprofit Mission.

So when we are seeking gifts for the Annual Fund (and most nonprofits have done that business this past November – December) we’re letting our donors know what we’ve been delivering, and further what needs to be delivered in the coming months. And years.

Doing this smartly depends on strategic thinking. Beyond today. And always in terms of the folks the Nonprofit is serving. So when we’re going for Money for the Mission, it’s all about the people we serve. The Nonprofit itself is a tool to the end we’re seeking.

When our donors see we get that and we communicate that sense of purpose, they will dig a little deeper.

So the Nonprofit Board is thinking and acting Strategically. I don’t know how else the work gets done.

Do you?

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Developing the Nonprofit Professional Leader

Moving beyond the general concept of “Strategic Thinking” that I broached last week (thank you, McKinsey & Company), the focus this week is on building Executive Leadership at the Nonprofit organization.
I’m using this article from Bridgespan Hoe to Develop Yourself as a Nonprofit Leader. as a point of reference.
Nonprofit Board leaders should take interest in the development of their professional staff, particularly their executive director, as effective executors of the nonprofit mission.
The accompanying article from Bridgespan cites six nonprofit executives who are “leading edge” thinkers, and how they developed over the years, and how they want their professional team to develop in the coming years.
Education is a key part of it. And, of course, I’m a true believer in its importance as an adjunct faculty member of the Nonprofit Management program at Northeastern University in Boston.
But beyond that, there is networking…time and work out of the office, seeking out other nonprofit leaders and learning from their experience.
And there is the mentoring role we hope nonprofit executives will take in encouraging the development of their staff.
Nonprofit advancement starts at the core: With the staff and the board. Always interested in making it better.
And applying Strategic Thinking while in that process.

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Strategic Thinking: A Nonprofit Application

In 2000, McKinsey & Co released a report on Strategic Thinking > The article by Frederick Gluck, Stephen Kaufman et al does a good job describing how companies grow in their strategic capabilities as the leadership evolves through certain phases. The process usually begins with emerging financial strategies.
It seems to me that this applies to the development of nonprofit organizations. Generally, nonprofits grow with the primary intention to improve life for a target audience. Profit-making entities grow with a variety of intentions, but generally speaking, companies/businesses are hatched and grow with the intention to ultimately generate profit. But underneath it all, there is an idea that the starting core of people want to test and put to work. And that it will work better than the next group’s idea.
I believe nonprofit organizations can and do benefit from approaching their mission with a strategically-focused approach.
And, that this plan is developed in stages over time.
Take a look at the article. I’ll write more about evolving nonprofit strategy in the coming weeks.

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