A Nonprofit Wish List

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Many children have their lists for Santa, but in some respects, nonprofits should as well. It may seem a bit idealistic, but there are some realistic considerations and expectations that should come as nonprofits look to 2018. Effective and efficient organizations will find clarity on these eight concepts.

Vision - There is nothing quite so powerful as a clear vision paired with an action-oriented mission. They need to be more than just words, or a box to check off when completed. The effective vision and mission will be the proverbial guiding star and will drive everything your organization does. This laser focus will result in intense support and rally those on the perimeter around your cause as you grow. Establishing a stellar vision would be a real gift and appropriate resolution for 2018.

Engaged Board - Board members are easy to find. Engaged board members are not. I find there are many people who will accept a board position without analysis of their purpose or dedication. Engaged board members get it, they are passionate about the mission and willing to devote the time and talents necessary to help advance that mission. However, there are some who are doing the organization a disservice, by occupying a seat that could be better filled. Timely orientation, discovery, review, and delegation provide framework to properly engage the board. Make certain that these gifts are under the tree and on the resolution list for 2018.

Increased Awareness - Organizations are often perplexed by the fact that some members of the public don't know about their passion, purpose and programs. Yet they continue to engage the same marketing and communications channels or rely on outdated methods for years. The best approach in this season of giving is to analyze your methods, or have an independent communications audit. You'll undoubtedly raise your awareness, about your efforts to raise the awareness of others!

Deeper Understanding - Awareness is fine but a level deeper, understanding, is where your organization should want to reside. Once prospective supporters are aware, you want them to understand the nuances of your organization. What makes you different? How do you approach the problem and bring about resolution? What needs do you have? How can they be engaged in helping? An investment made in 2018 toward cultivating understanding will result in a deeper relationship for years to come.

Fewer Special Events - Paring down the number of special events is an admirable goal for most any nonprofit. This holds true for those events making less than $10,000 and often for those making more. Events are time consuming and they also hold many opportunity costs. Organizations are not good at measuring the "real" costs and outcomes. Engage someone to help in the process or task your board with a more in-depth analysis.  Do so in 2018 and you'll be amazed at the difference it can make in your impact and ability to develop major donors.

Effective Operations - Peter Drucker said, "Effectiveness is doing the right things and efficiency is doing things right." It's appropriate then, that I note "effective operations." I know many nonprofits that carry on operations, but not so effectively. They may eventually get the job done, but they could have done so much more if their operations had been effective. Imagine being able to serve more people, attract more volunteers, and raise more funds. Effective operations will enable you to do just that. Take an honest look at operations in your organization, conduct some focus groups or have an outside consultant assist you. You'll find new perspectives and new pathways can result.

More Volunteers - Who wouldn't want more volunteers? Volunteers are a tremendous resource and somewhat of a commodity in the nonprofit sector. Why not ensure you treat them as such? I conduct workshops around volunteer efforts and am always surprised at how many organizations have no structured plan related to their volunteer recruitment efforts. Leaving recruitment to chance is not an option, nor is poor orientation or nebulous assignments. Resolve in 2018 to up your volunteer game and supporting structure and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how it can change your service delivery.

New Donors & Supporters - New donors and supporters are probably at the top of every nonprofit's wish list. However, an organization needs to have a grasp on all the aforementioned concepts, before seeking to develop meaningful relationships with new donors. We often choose to refer to the donations as "investments" and that they are. Take a look at your organization from the investor’s standpoint. You only want to invest in assets that provide a positive return and ultimately, good outcomes, correct?

Here’s how you demonstrate this is the case with your organization. Be able to relay your mission and vision, to share the passion of your board, tell the impactful stories of your service recipients and grow the volunteer base.  They’re all actions that help paint the picture prospective donors appreciate. With that, you raise their awareness and understanding, making investment more likely.

These concepts are not new, but they are often overlooked.  As the new year approaches, why not take the time to consider new beginnings, new opportunities and possibly outside help in making your new year the most effective and efficient one yet.

David Fry is president of Effective Advancement Strategies

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