As a sector, we depend on success primarily through fundraising. But fundraising is one of the final steps in the process of strengthening an organization. First, all nonprofits, regardless of sector, must have a clear vision for the impact they are making and will make in the future. The best way to shape this vision is by creating a strategic plan. Whether you believe in the value of a detailed strategic operating plan or not (and I have met nonprofit leaders over the years with widely varied views on this), codifying an impactful Vision that informs the way in which you carry out your mission is essential. Without that basic understanding of where you are going as an organization and why you are going there, you simply do not have the framework for expanding your impact or articulating a compelling case for support to your donors.
I would argue that just as important as planning is a commitment to effective communication. Communicating our success is vital to our sustained impact and underlies our ability to raise money to fund programming. Now is not the time to pull back on your communications budget. On the contrary, constituents are desperate for positive signs that there are people and organizations “out there” who really care and are working even harder to make things better in these anxious times. Be in front of your donors on a constant basis – not to ask for money, but to reassure and to encourage.
Donors will not, I believe, be giving less in 2020 and 2021. But they have already shown clear signs that they are giving to fewer organizations. That means you must be a number-one or number-two priority for your donors. If you do not reach out to them on a regular basis now, you may be forgotten. The cost you will face later to re-acquire donor priority will be much higher than investing in stewardship communications now.
Most of us in the nonprofit sector are unabashed optimists. Whether we are volunteers, donors, staff, or serve on boards, we believe that we have a responsibility to make things better by harnessing collective strength. Indeed, today’s turmoil and uncertainty provide an opportunity for the nonprofit sector to assert itself in new, creative, and more productive ways. Let’s utilize the reliability and trust that have forged so much productivity from our sector to become an even greater pillar of strength.
Read the full article about nonprofit uncertainty by Matt Brown at BoardSource.