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nonprofit sustainability

Why Do Nonprofit Leaders Get in Their Own Way?

men hurdlesCan we talk about crazy for a minute?

I’ve recently witnessed some behavior from nonprofit leaders that made my jaw drop:

  • A board chairman convinced the rest of his board to turn away a donor who wanted to give the nonprofit a significant amount of money to fund organizational capacity (strategic planning, coaching, fundraising training) because he felt the nonprofit already knew how to do the work internally for free.

  • An executive director who was really struggling with wrangling her board and developing a strong financial model bravely asked a close foundation donor for advice and support. When the foundation offered to fund some leadership coaching, the executive director rejected the offer for fear her board would think she didn’t know how to do her job.

  • A board charged their nonprofit’s Development Director with increasing revenue in a single year by 30%. When she asked for a donor database to help more effectively recruit new and renew current donors the board said “No” because they felt she should already be able to do that without the aid of new technology.

More often than not it is nonprofit donors who hold back efforts to build stronger, more sustainable nonprofits by not providing enough capacity capital. I talk about that all the time (like here, here and here).

But sometimes, and more shockingly, nonprofit staffs and boards stand in their own way.

It takes courage for a nonprofit leader to admit that she doesn’t know how to do something and needs help. I am reminded of a fascinating interview I heard on NPR earlier this fall with Leah Hager Cohen who recently wrote the book, In Praise of Admitting Ignorance. She describes the freedom that comes from admitting when you simply don’t know how to do something. That moment of honesty can lead to transformation, as she says, “I think those words can be so incredibly liberating…They can just make your shoulders drop with relief. Once you finally own up to what you don’t know, then you can begin to have honest interactions with the people around you.”

I would love to see nonprofit leaders take this advice to heart. Once you have the courage to admit (to your board, to your donors, to your staff) that you don’t know how to do everything, you just might finally get the help you so desperately need.

Nonprofit leaders have been given the Herculean task of: developing and managing effective programs, managing a diverse and underpaid staff, crafting a bold strategic direction, creating a sustainable financial model, wrangling a group of board members with often competing interests, and recruiting and appeasing a disparate donor base. All with little support along the way. It is easy to see why the position of nonprofit leader is such a lonely one.

So instead of continuing to bear that enormous burden, take a step back and admit that you simply don’t know how to do it all. You need help, guidance, advice, support, organization building. If you are lucky enough to have funders, board members or others outside the organization that want to help, admit (to yourself, to your board, to your donors) that you need that help. And don’t let anyone (including, and especially, yourself) stand in your way.

If you’d like to learn more about the leadership coaching I provide nonprofit boards and staff click here, and if you’d like to schedule a time to talk about how I might help move your organization forward, let me know.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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Moving From Fundraising to Financing

I’ve had a lot of great questions about the upcoming Financing Not Fundraising E-Course for nonprofit leaders. So I created a video that breaks the e-course down and explains exactly how it will work.

The Financing Not Fundraising E-Course is an excellent opportunity for nonprofits stuck in the starvation cycle to figure out what they can do to more effectively raise money and then create a plan for a more sustainable financial engine. The registration fee is per organization, so if you would like your executive director, development director and a board member, for example, to participate, they all can for one fee. You will just simply appoint one person as representative of the organization to participate in the coaching calls, and the others are free to “listen in” and help you with each step along the way.

The total time commitment over the course of two months is approximately 10-15 hours, which includes the webinars, coaching calls, Google Hangouts and homework assignments.

This E-Course is truly an investment in the future of your organization. By making the investment of the time and cost you will transform the money engine of your organization and recoup that investment many, many times over.

Watch the video below (or click here) to learn more. And if you have additional questions about the E-course, don’t hesitate to send me an email at nell@socialvelocity.net.

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New Financing Not Fundraising 2012 E-Book

Financing Not Fundraising 2012 E-book

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve just released the Financing Not Fundraising, 2012 E-book. This e-book is the second in the Financing Not Fundraising e-book series. While the Financing Not Fundraising, 2011 E-book laid out the basic elements of the Financing Not Fundraising approach, this new e-book, a compilation and expansion of blog posts in the Financing Not Fundraising blog series from 2012, goes deeper into the concept.

We are living in a new reality. And the old rules of nonprofit funding simply no longer apply. Those nonprofits that take a big step back and create a smart strategy for bringing enough money in the door to achieve their mission are the ones that will survive and thrive in this new environment. In creating that strategy they are moving to finance, instead of fundraise for, their organizations. And the result is a stronger, more effective, more sustainable organization with excited, energized, empowered board, staff and donors.

The 25-page Financing Not Fundraising, 2012 E-book expands on the basic elements of the Financing Not Fundraising model and helps those nonprofits that are ready to start moving away from fundraising to really dive into this new approach.

Here are the elements in this second level of Financing Not Fundraising:

  1. Stop Fearing Money
  2. Connect Money to Your Strategic Plan
  3. Fix Your Fundraising Plan
  4. Jump Start Your Board
  5. Align Executive and Development Directors
  6. Get Real With Your Donors
  7. Abandon Ineffective Fundraisers
  8. Kiss That Endowment Dream Goodbye
  9. Reinvent the Capital Campaign

You can download Financing Not Fundraising, 2012 here and if you missed the Financing Not Fundraising, 2011 e-book you can download it here.

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What’s Holding Your Nonprofit Back From Raising More Money?

It is the ultimate question for many nonprofit leaders. But often one that they can’t answer on their own. Perhaps because nonprofit leadership may be so mired in the weeds, or so used to doing what they’ve always done, or simply lack fundraising expertise or  knowledge of new trends and tools. The end result is that they simply can’t figure out how to raise money in new and better ways. Which is where a revenue assessment can turn the tide.

Let me give you an example.

Institute for Human Services (IHS), a large social service agency for homeless men, women and children in Honolulu, Hawaii, enjoyed success in government grant funding, but had been unable to diversify their funding as much as they would like in individual and corporate areas. At the same time, their small fundraising staff was over capacity and struggled to keep up with the volume of work. The board of directors was eager to help fundraise but didn’t know the best way to get involved.

The organization knew they had the opportunity to raise more money, but didn’t know how to prioritize their resources to do so.

IHS hired Social Velocity to conduct a revenue assessment to find opportunities for growing their funding. I interviewed board, staff and external funders to get their insights about fundraising at IHS. Then I reviewed organization financials, materials, technology, staffing, planning, and other processes. From this analysis, I wrote a 30-page analysis with specific recommendations for improving fundraising in each revenue area and presented my findings to the staff and board.

With Social Velocity’s revenue assessment, IHS has hit the ground running making improvements to their fundraising function. They have already hired a new Development Director who has been able to shoulder more of the responsibility for fundraising, freeing the Executive Director to participate in more donor relations activities. They are looking forward to reviving past donors through more targeted fundraising strategies, caring for existing donors and creating broader opportunities for constituents to support the mission more personally. The staff and board are energized by the specific fundraising role and responsibilities I outlined for them. The assessment really turned the tide for them, as executive director Connie Mitchell explained:

The analysis and recommendations turned on the light bulb for me about how an investment in one key development staff could multiply our results over a short time. We’re also confidently using our resources more wisely for a better ROI when it comes to fundraising tools and media strategies.

A revenue assessment is for nonprofit organizations that know they want (or need) to raise more money, but don’t know how to get there. Here are the steps I go through in a nonprofit revenue assessment:

  1. Interview Stakeholders. I conduct in-depth, one-on-one interviews with the executive director, key staff, key board members, and key funders and other external constituents to understand what is working and what isn’t.

  2. Review Documents. I analyze all organization documents, policies, procedures, financials, systems, and materials to understand the internal and external processes for raising money.

  3. Assess Organization. I look at 6 elements of the organizational structure (mission and vision, strategy, operations, etc) to determine how well they contribute to fundraising effectiveness.

  4. Analyze Revenue Streams. I look at all current and potential revenue streams to uncover opportunities for increases.

  5. Review Fundraising Infrastructure. I review all aspects of the organization’s back-end functionality for raising money (such as donor database, materials, systems, technology) in order to uncover areas for increased efficiencies.

  6. Deliver Analysis and Recommendations. I write  a 15-20 page detailed analysis with recommended actions for increasing funding streams.

  7. Present Assessment. I present the assessment and recommendations in-person to staff and board for questions and discussion.

It doesn’t have to be so hard. A revenue assessment can give you a clear road map for moving your organization from financial insecurity to long-term financial sustainability.

To learn more about Social Velocity’s revenue assessment, check out our Revenue Assessment Consulting Service, or email us at info@socialvelocity.net.

Photo Credit: Julia Manzerova

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10 Great Social Innovation Reads: April

In our ongoing blog series, 10 Great Social Innovation Reads, below are my top 10 picks (ok, if you really count it’s 11, but consider it added value) for what really stood out in the world of social innovation in April. But I’d love to hear what you think the best reads last month were. Please add your favorites from the past month in the comments.

  1. Are Better Days Ahead for Fundraising? It could be, according to a new fundraising survey and this infographic.
  2. But maybe not, since according to new IRS data (that disputes the annual GivingUSA survey) Americans gave about 20% less during the recession than before it.
  3. What Can Junk Food Teach Philanthropy?: Sean Stannard-Stockton from Tactical Philanthropy takes a look at how junk food is marketed and wonders if we could apply the same principles to get more people to become philanthropists.
  4. An interesting controversy has been brewing around the social enterprise darling, TOMS Shoes, which gives a pair of shoes away for every pair purchased. But some have begun to argue that this type of cause-related marketing is actually quite harmful. The Triple Pundit blog summarizes the debate: B1G1 Virus and the Cause Marketing Paradox.
  5. There are two new generations of donors on the horizon, Millennials and Generation Z. Do you know what you need to about Millennials?: What do – and don’t – we know about Millennial donors?
  6. And Is Your Nonprofit Connecting with Generation Z?
  7. The Nonprofit Finance Fund has been building a treasure trove of information, discussion, tools etc on social impact bonds, a revolutionary way to fund nonprofit impact through government, all in an effort to make them a reality in America.
  8. The Path to Sustainability: Bob Ottenhoff from GuideStar gives a great argument about the lifecycles of nonprofits and how revenue must move from foundation support to some sort of market support over time.
  9. From the Philanthropy411 blog comes a great list of resources for nonprofits entering, or looking to enhance their presence in, the world of social media: 20 Social Media Resources for Nonprofits
  10. Impact Market Failure: Kevin Starr from the Mulago Foundation challenges funders to start funding organizations that can achieve impact and address the failure of the impact funding market.

Photo Credit: susivinh

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