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Raising Money to Grow On: Creating The Plan

By Nell Edgington



In May I launched a new ongoing blog series that profiles Social Velocity’s work with Charlotte Chamber Music, a small performing arts organization that has a big vision, but lacks the capital to get there. Charlotte Chamber Music enlisted Social Velocity’s help last Spring to create a strategic plan and a capacity capital pitch to raise the money to execute on that plan. You can read the first post in this series that details what gave Charlotte Chamber Music the desire to raise capacity capital.

Today I describe how we developed a strategic plan for Charlotte Chamber Music, which is the very necessary first step in raising capacity capital.

But first, let’s review. Capacity capital (or “philanthropic equity”) is the money so many nonprofits desperately need. Capacity capital is dramatically different from the day-to-day operating revenue that nonprofits are always fundraising for. Capacity capital doesn’t fund delivery of nonprofit services (beds for a homeless shelter, new productions in an opera house, books for an after-school program). Rather, capacity capital builds the organizational infrastructure of the nonprofit (technology, system, administrative or fundraising staff, materials) that allows the organization to become more effective or grow. The vast majority of nonprofit organizations don’t have access to this kind of money because:

  1. Funders are hesitant to fund “overhead,” and
  2. Nonprofits don’t know how to make the case for why this kind of money is so critical to their ability to deliver impact.

But you cannot simply go out and ask for capacity capital. First, you must develop a compelling, inspiring, actionable and measurable plan for what you would do with the capacity capital. And this is where we started with Charlotte Chamber Music.

Over a period of almost 6 months, Elaine Spallone, the Charlotte Chamber Music Executive Director, and I went through the strategic planning process:

Analyze the Internal Situation: We developed SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)  and core competency analyses. We also created an organization logic model, which helps the organization articulate how they take community resources ($, people, artists) and turn them into social change. Then Elaine took those 3 elements and “shopped them around” to board members, funders, staff, and other constituents to refine what we had developed.

Analyze the External Environment: Elaine and her board and staff then researched their competitors (those providing similar services in the community) and consumers (funders and clients) in order to understand trends, how their core competencies related to community needs, and the competing forces working to address those needs.

Refine Vision and Mission: Several month prior to working with Social Velocity CM had created a new vision and mission statements. But they were very internally focused.  Now, with all of the above data, analysis and feedback in hand, Elaine, her staff and board reviewed their current vision and mission and refined them to better reflect their new understanding of the value CCM brings the Charlotte community. As Elaine observed:

Working with Nell on the mission and vision was critical. We as an organization had in fact addressed them several months earlier and created something we felt good about. But Nell helped us understand that we created something that talked about us as an organization, and not about the way we were going to change our community. It is a critical distinction. It made all the difference and paved the way for our “aha” moment.

So, their new and improved vision and mission statements became:

  • New Vision: Charlotte becomes the cultural center of the Southeast through the vibrant engagement of its citizens, connected to their humanity, history and each other.
  • New Mission: To stimulate, animate and connect Carolinians to each other and their region through the presentation of curated chamber music performances.

Develop Goals and Objectives: With their new vision and mission statements as the guiding elements and filters of the strategic plan, CCM developed a strategic direction. What was really interesting about defining their strategic direction is that the final direction was much different than what they had thought it would be. Before our strategic planning process started, Elaine and her board thought their ultimate goal was “to become a top tier arts organization,” in essence to mirror the largest, most successful, most well-funded performing arts organizations in the city.

However, what they realized in a key “a-ha” moment was that that direction didn’t fit with their core competencies or their place in the external environment. There are countless arts organizations vying to be “top tier.” But CCM’s strength is it’s scrappiness–it’s ability to easily adapt to the changing environment and experiment because they don’t have an expensive staff or infrastructure that needs to be slowly moved. Thus, CCM came up with this strategic direction:

By 2020, through an expansion of venues and channels, Charlotte Chamber Music becomes a new model for engaging people in broader and deeper ways with the cultural arts community

CCM made a very strategic decision: they want to be a new, innovative model that connects people in their community through the cultural arts. They want to draw on their assets of ingenuity, flexibility, innovation and the inherent qualities in chamber music that are so good at connecting people to each other in its intimacy, engagement and accessibility. With their new strategic direction in place, they developed 5 broad goals, and the objectives to get to each of them, for the next 3 years.

With this exciting new strategic plan in hand, Elaine remarked:

A year ago, before we met Social Velocity, we held an informal board and staff retreat. At one point, the board chair called on each board member to share what they felt was the most critical issue we faced as an organization. Overwhelmingly the response was: “What are the measurements for our mission and vision, what are the goals?” and “No clear understanding of where we are going”. I am excited a year later to know all these questions have been answered, and we have a completely new  trajectory in which we have set ourselves upon!

CCM’s new strategic plan has begun to dramatically shift the culture of the organization. CCM now has an exciting, compelling long-term vision (and a detailed plan to execute toward that vision) that is getting staff, board and funders excited for the future.

In the next post in this series, we’ll talk about how we created the day-to-day operational plan to execute on this strategic direction, the 3-year budget to get there, and a system for monitoring the plan going forward.

Photo Credit: laura padgett

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About the Author: Nell Edgington is President of Social Velocity (www.socialvelocity.net), a management consulting firm leading nonprofits to greater social impact and financial sustainability. Social Velocity helps nonprofits grow their programs, bring more money in the door, and use resources more effectively. For more information, check out Social Velocity consulting services and clients.


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8 Comments to Raising Money to Grow On: Creating The Plan

Nancy Bell
August 30, 2011

This is really helpful. Thanks.

Nell Edgington
August 31, 2011

Thanks Nancy, I’m glad it was helpful!

Cynthia Myricks
October 13, 2011

This is a true revelation for our organizational growth! Thank you so much!!

Nell Edgington
October 13, 2011

Cynthia, you are very welcome.

Laurel Amabile
April 23, 2012

Your information about “philanthropic equity campaigns” is very enlightening. What are the parallel applications for using this type of campaign for congregations and faith communities? There are many that want to raise money for infrastructure–staffing, systems, and programs–as much as for building structures.

Nell Edgington
April 24, 2012

Laurel, the concept of philanthropic equity is easily applied to faith communities. The idea is the same: approach people who love your organization and want to see the work succeed and educate them about the critical importance of capital. If you hone your pitch and connect it to the impact of your organization, you can raise capital as well.

[…] Raising Money to Grow On: Creating The Plan […]

[…] several months of working with Charlotte Chamber Music we had a strategic plan that staff and board were excited about and invested in. But it’s not enough to have a great […]

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