There was a really interesting report in the Chronicle of Philanthropy last week about how nonprofits are losing top talent because they aren’t paying enough. Shocking news, I know. But let’s talk for a minute about what is underlying this and how we might move beyond it.
The problem, in my mind, is that nonprofit leaders often approach many situations from an assumption of scarcity, rather than abundance. So, in the case of hiring, often nonprofit leaders and board members set salaries as low as possible: “We don’t have enough money, so let’s save as much as we can.” And this happens most often when it comes to fundraising staff.
In setting low salaries you are in essence broadcasting to the world “We are not worth it.” As a nonprofit you are loudly declaring that you don’t believe in your organization and mission enough that you are willing to reach for something bigger and better.
But hiring talented staff, like accomplishing anything in life really, takes a magical combination of planning and leaping.
The plan part is clearly articulating how you will go from point A where you are today to a much bigger, better point B down the road. So it may be a plan for how you will go from never having enough money to accomplish your goals to enjoying a talented and effective fundraising team and system. Your “plan” could be a strategic plan, a sustainable financing plan, a capacity capital plan. It doesn’t matter what kind of plan, the key part is articulating how you will go from point A to point B and what it will take (money, people, timeline, infrastructure) to get there.
The leap part is when you deeply believe (and then convince your board and donors to also believe) that this plan, if fully implemented, will elevate the organization to a whole new, much more effective level. It is telling a compelling story about why your nonprofit needs to go from point A to B, what it will allow you to do, why it is so exciting, and how others can join in. But this story won’t be convincing unless you truly believe in the story and through that belief get others to climb aboard.
I see this powerful combination of planning and leaping in my clients all the time. Before we begin working together, they are often stuck spinning their wheels, never having enough money to do and be more. But once we work to 1) create a plan for their future, and then 2) get board and donors solidly behind that plan, magic happens.
This was the case most recently with a client who I helped put together a very ambitious strategic growth plan to triple their budget and services, grow their staff, and dramatically increase their reach and impact. Through the process of creating the plan, the board became increasingly excited and invested in it. They, along with the staff, began to believe that the plan was truly possible. Now this organization is actively raising much more money than they ever have, adding key staff, and growing their programs.
The only thing that separates this energized, growing organization from the smaller, less impactful organization they were a couple of years ago is that they created a plan for growth and then convinced themselves, their board, and their funders to believe that the plan could actually become a reality.
When it happens — that combination of planning and leaping — the momentum created is unparalleled.
But you can’t create that momentum without both elements: the plan and the leap. Without the belief that a plan can truly come to fruition, it never will. And a leap is meaningless if you don’t know what you are leaping toward.
If you want to learn more about how I help nonprofits create a plan and take a leap, check out my consulting services.
Photo Credit: Markus Spiske