Whatever you call it– fundraising, resource development, major gifts, organizational growth – and whoever you do it for — nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, impact investors, social enterprises, etc. – its all about transformation. At least is has been for me. That’s because every major fundraising campaign and growth initiative I’ve been involved in coincided with a significant point of transition in the life of the enterprise and/or its leaders.
Sometimes it was triggered by a change in leadership– other times a new program/market opportunity or milestone anniversary. In some cases it was more crisis management, focused on a financial issue. Whatever it was, the need for my services and indeed the ability to be successful was very much defined by these broader organizational dynamics and culture. Check out a few individual examples here.
The first step to maximizing these periods of change is to 1. recognize that organizations and the people who lead them do not change behavior until they are either forced to OR 2. until the potential benefit outweighs the perceived risks. I believe it’s a human dynamic. Once you begin to understand this, you will forever look at any change and disruption as an important precursor to opportunity and potential transformation.
Once you make this shift, you can begin to prepare and position your enterprise (and yourself) for increased revenue generation and the longer-term process of building thriving, transformational enterprises and communities. A few words of experience:
Know your value. You can’t move forward with any meaningful change and resource development effort until you understand what it is that you bring to the table that others may be willing to pay for. Most of us assume we know exactly what it is our funders, clients and customers want from us. The more you understand how you are helping to advance their priorities and solve their problems the more influence you will have to raise (big) money and advance your mission/vision. This is where a strategic business plan becomes especially useful.
Engage your most significant stakeholders. This is a critical and often overlooked step in positioning your organization for growth and resource development. Pay special attention to your internal stakeholders – employees, board members, and your most loyal followers/supporters/customers. Because they will be most affected by the change, they can be the most resistant to change.
Use your value and current stakeholders to methodically define new target audiences/markets. For those who understand their value and have an engaged constituency, the possibilities are limitless. Use these essential building blocks to identify and engage new supporters, customers, followers. In all of the case examples I provide, you will see how we leveraged what we had to expand our base. And in this age of blended social and financial returns, there are more possibilities than ever to build new markets.
Define and Celebrate Success – Change is disruptive. Transformation takes a long time. Be sure to find ways to acknowledge the smaller wins and to refuel along the way.
Admittedly, a milestone birthday on the horizon; my mother’s recent retirement and relocation to the sunshine state; and my own never-ending need to reinvent myself makes this an especially relevant topic. But as I get older (and hopefully wises) I am interested in the dollars raised as well as what I leave behind.
Is there something particularly interesting and potentially transformational that you are trying to accomplish? How is the process of fundraising helping (or not) to advance your goals? Has your approach changed over time:? What has influenced those changes? We want to hear from you.