I am of many minds about a number of things: feasibility studies, strategic planning,
endowment, special events, to name a few. It’s not that I am against any of these, but I am adverse to anyone thinking they are necessary because, well, it’s what one does/needs.
And sometimes—maybe oftentimes—it is not so much the what that worries me, but the how, the way these things are carried out.
Take feasibility studies. Are they really necessary? Well, if you are going to build or seriously renovate a building, it would be good to test the waters and see if the money can, indeed, be raised. But too often I’ve seen how consultants assign the actual interviews to the greenest, lowest level consultants on staff, and watch opportunities to really assist the nonprofit in their fundraising efforts, never be broached.
I also worry about the emphasis on reaching a dollar amount for the campaign—without much thought about how it will impact ongoing fundraising. Yes, comprehensive campaigns say they deal with this by including annual giving as part of the campaign, but I am not always convinced.
This is not to say I’m against comprehensive campaigns. For some campaigns, for some organizations, it is definitely the right way to go. But just because it is “the way we do campaigns now” it doesn’t follow that it is best in every situation. Indeed, for some, separating a capital campaign from ongoing fundraising is far wiser and more effective.
Strategic planning is another one of those things that I absolutely, unequivocally think organizations need to do. But again, the how is what is really important. And the how influences the what—the what you end up with and whether it is useful or just a document that sits on the desk.
No matter what you are doing, the first step is to ask yourself why—why you are doing this and what you hope you will get out of the exercise. Working backward, consider what you need to figure out in order to get where you want to go.
Janet Levine helps nonprofits get to one mind, moving from mired to inspired. Learn more at http://janetlevineconsulting.com. Sign up for the newsletter and contact
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