This post is part 8 of a series about strategic planning.
After all the time, money, and effort you have invested in building your new strategic plan, you definitely want to get the most from it. Obviously, you’ll want to use it as a management tool, but you’ll also want your new strategic plan to enhance your public relations, support fundraising efforts, attract visitors to your website and build your social media base.
Of primary importance, you will want to use your strategic plan as a management tool for staff and a governance tool for your board. The plan is ideally suited for staff management and board governance because it includes quarterly goals. Each goal can be assigned to a staff member (or board member if the goal relates to the board).
To report this information throughout the organization, I recommend creating a one page dashboard that is both easy to read and not cumbersome to complete each month. Like most dashboards, you will color code the items being measured:
When color coding the dashboard, it is important to be honest with yourself and the board about those items that are yellow or red. Every organization experiences speedbumps and roadblocks when implementing a strategic plan, and no one should feel embarrassed or ashamed of missing the goal. Instead, the quarterly will encourage healthy dialogue about how to turn the red to yellow and the yellow to green.
If you only use the new strategic plan as a yard stick to determine progress, you will undoubtedly achieve the majority of your goals. But there are six other ways to derive benefit from your strategic plan (described below).
#1: Send a Press Release.
A new strategic plan is a great opportunity to tell the community about your new mission, vision, and key goals. In addition to sending the press release to local media, also consider associations and niche publications that may be interested in announcing your strategic plan. See the sample press release below.
#2: Share The Plan With Funders.
Share the entire plan with any significant funders who typically ask for the strategic plan as part of the application process. When you send a copy of the plan, also ask to schedule a time so that you can share the plan highlights with them in person. This is a great opportunity to meet with the funder without asking for money.
#3: Share the plan with select major donors.
Invite your major donors to one-on-one coffee meetings with the executive director to discuss the strategic plan. Bring a copy of the strategic plan with you (keeping in mind that you may want to remove some of the financial detail before sharing the plan). Your donors will be impressed that you took the time to share this information with them, and this will be another important cultivation opportunity.
#4: Serialize the Plan On Your Website.
While not appropriate for every section of the strategic plan, you can use the plan to create blog posts for your website. The environmental scan might become four blog posts (one about stakeholder feedback, another about the financial history of the organization, a third about the programmatic outcomes, and the fourth about fundraising outcomes). You can also serialize a high-level overview of the goals and tactics. These blog posts will have SEO-rich content because they will repeatedly use the name of your organization and the key words that people are likely to google.
#5: Maximize Social Media Attention.
As you serialize the blog posts, be certain to link them on social media and tag the key stakeholders you interviewed, as well as your board, key staff, and consultants.
#6: Announce a Schedule For Publishing Your Progress.
Select and announce a frequency for publishing your progress to funders, major donors, the media, and your social media followers. If done quarterly, you will have another series of media hits and your funders will be very impressed with your transparency.
By taking just a few of these steps, your organization can gain significantly more benefit from your strategic planning process. In fact, you’ll likely have foundations and major donors asking to give you money based on the successful implementation of your strategic plan.
About the Host:
Read Dolph Ward Goldenburg's Bio
Whether you refer to your senior staff fundraiser as the development director, chief development officer, or vice president of external relations, this one position has the greatest influence over the economic engine that drives your non-profit organization. For the Successful Nonprofits Podcast, we recently interviewed Emma Kieran of PilotPeak Consulting about specific steps CEOs and their organizations can take to increase the effectiveness (and retain) their chief development officer (CDO). If you would rather listen to this interview, you can download it here.
Dolph: Hey Emma thanks for joining us today. . . . what got you interested in the CEO - CDO relationship.
Emma: That's a great question. Like you, I have been in a lot of different fundraising positions in the past and what I've noticed is that the turnover is really high. And unfortunately, it takes a long time for a CDO to develop really deep relationships with board members and donors and that turnover is really hurting their performance. . . . From my formal and informal research, I found that the number one reason fundraisers leave is because they can't stand the management. They can't really find a great relationship with their executive director or their CEO and they can't find that synergy that's necessary to make the fundraising mechanism really strong.
Dolph: So, tell me a little bit about both the formal and informal research you did.
Emma: The informal research is me having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with a colleague and asking why they are choosing to leave. And I've helped a lot of organizations fill positions both at the CDO level and also other fundraising levels. Major gift officers moving into the CDO level or similar experiences. Then the formal side is just reading good blogs good white papers and really understanding what the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Through all of this, I’ve also learned that this turnover occurs somewhere between 16th and 20th month.
Dolph: It's also interesting that part of your informal research is working with candidates because clearly you are working with someone who is looking at leaving their job. When you're acting as a search consultant you probably are having the conversation with them about why they want to leave.
Emma: That's exactly right and that's one of the questions I always ask. And you know sometimes people are a little hesitant to answer that question because they don't want to seem like they're giving their current organization a bad rap or that they're really saying anything negative about a manager or leader. But what I really like to do is dig into the reason they feel like they can't stay at their current job and develop those deep relationships. Because ultimately those relationships are what make fundraising successful. So, if you're leaving in 16 or 20 months you don't have the capacity to develop those long-term relationships that ultimately result in great big gifts for your organization that are transformational.
Dolph: It's interesting you say that because I've had this conversation multiple times with my alma mater. It feels like every two years I have a new development director assigned to me. This has happened three or four times, and I just had a frank conversation with the dean about it – explaining that this is an issue because, just as I start to develop a relationship with this person, they get poached by a bigger fundraising shop somewhere else.
Emma: That's right. And then the donor ends up having to tell your story over again. And so then there's a disconnect. You've just developed a relationship with a fundraiser and you've poured your heart and soul into that relationship a little bit. Remember the relationship between a donor and a fundraiser is a little bit like dating. And so you spent two years as a fund raiser courting that donor and you've really gotten to know them and what makes them tick and how they want to make a difference and what mission really drives them. And then the donor has to start all over again. It can be very frustrating for a donor and not really results oriented for the organization. It really can be harmful.
Dolph: Clearly, I can see how that's super harmful in major gifts. But talk to me about special events and annual campaigns. How is that detrimental to the organization on an annual campaign if most of it is done by mail or by volunteer solicitors?
Emma: You end up coming into a two-year cycle where the letter looks like X or Y for a couple of years and you start to develop a theme and a voice and donors really get interested in that and then they start really listening. Remember that donors need to hear you say your message seven, eight, nine, ten times sometimes before they really hear it. If they hear one voice for two years and followed by a break with another voice for two years, it really can interrupt the way that you're reaching your donors. It interrupts that message because the clarity and the uniformity and the theme disappears.
Dolph: So, what can the CEO do to help build that relationship?
Emma: So, the first thing is to avoid having expectations that are too high. This is the first thing that I often see with people who are leaving their CDO role. They're leaving because they say, “Oh the CEO doesn't really understand fundraising; they don't understand that it takes 9 – 18 months to develop relationships and really see donations come in. So as a CEO you really need to educate yourself become educated about how to set expectations for fundraising and work with your CDO to create those expectations so that the CDO isn't over promising and the CEO isn't over expecting.
Dolph: That’s an interesting observation. I was recently working with an organization that wanted to hire a development director starting in July and was hoping to see results by December. There's a lot of managing expectations, helping them understand they are likely not going to see a fundraising windfall happen after five or six months.
Emma: That's exactly right. I mean it takes us five or six months to be able to say the mission without a hiccup. If you're new to an organization, seeing results does take a full year if not up to two years because you've got to meet the donors and start developing those relationships. And I say again that it's like dating. You wouldn't expect to get engaged after five months probably. You've got to think the same thing with your donors; they are not going to make a bigger gift or stretch a little bit more until they really understand the person that they're working with.
Dolph: So what responsibility does the CDO have in building a good strong relationship with their CEO?
Emma: The first thing is frequent communication as fundraisers. We get our blinders on, look inward at our team and we say, “OK I need to raise five million dollars” or whatever the goal is and you get laser focused on how that's going to happen. Getting into the nuts and bolts of raising that money, CDOs often forget to have that open communication on a daily basis with their CEO. And so the CEO is out of the loop. . . . . right from that first day on the job, CDOs need to establish that trust with their CEO and that open line of communication.
Dolph: So daily communication. Tell me what that looks like. You know face to face, phone, e-mail etc. - what is that supposed to look like.
Emma: I once worked for an organization where we killed ourselves with meetings, to the ridiculous point where we could never get any work done. However, I will tell you there was no communication that slipped through the cracks. We were always on top of it as a team. Instead of killing yourself with meetings, I recommend daily communication of some sort. Maybe it's a weekly email to your CEO that says, “Hey I wanted you to know what's happening. These are the donors that moved forward. These are the donors that we’re stalled on. These are the things that we're deciding for the event of the annual campaign and putting that in writing. Then I also recommend a weekly sit down in person, not on the phone. Because there is something that you get from the personal face to face interaction that you can't get from the phone or from an e-mail. And then in the interim in between those two things there should be regular e-mails or phone calls or texts - - - whatever is your style. But we do need to remember that we often communicate in a style that's best for us.
Emma: But we need to really communicate in the style that's best for the other person. So if your CEO is a phone person call him or her on the phone; if they are text person do that instead. You really need to understand how your CEO needs to communicate and that's a two-way street.
Dolph: The weekly face-to-face meeting with my supervisor was one of the things that I did both as a development director and as a CEO. At my first development director gig, this concept was new to the CEO and I had introduced it to them. I’ve always believed in that weekly supervision meeting, with the person being supervised putting together the agenda ahead of time. The agenda doesn’t have to be in-depth, and is more frequently bullet points with just two or three sentences describing each. Of course, my CEO could add to that agenda if they wanted. But for me, drafting the agenda allowed me to really sit down and think about what I wanted to get out of that meeting, and it also gave my boss an opportunity to think about the topics we were going to discuss. This way, I could have the expectation to not often here, “Well let me think about X Y Z and get back to you next week.” You know I'd given them some core information upfront, and I was going to give them some more information in the meeting. Consequently, I was kind of expecting a decision either in the meeting or shortly after the meeting.
Emma: That's a great way to train yourself and to train your supervisor to be able to make decisions in meetings. After all, the problem with meetings is that often nothing happens and there's nothing worse than a terrible meeting where you just talk at one another and there's no decision and you just say, “OK well we'll meet again next week”. So I love that idea of an agenda, and I often encourage folks to do it by e-mail. You know you don't have to create a fancy word document or anything like that. Just put a couple of bullet points down and you know often the best CDOs are the ones who keep that as a running list. They add to the list all week long, so by the time they meet with the CEO they're not forgetting about things.
Dolph: I’ve often done it in excel, so each week is a new tab. Then I would send the entire excel spreadsheet to my boss, and they could see prior weeks’ tabs if they had forgotten something. It also made creating the next week's agenda easy because I would copy the last tab starting point. Let me share one of the things that I found really useful as an executive director, and I would love your feedback on whether this is an effective thing to do with CDO’s. As an executive director, we ended each meeting with a written meeting summary. It was quick and dirty, and we literally spent just the last five minutes of the meeting on it. This summary outlined decisions we made, action to be taken, who was going to do it, and the deadline. Part of what I loved about the meeting summary is that it allowed for mutual accountability. So often a supervisor tells their direct report, “I'm going to talk to Emma by next week”, but next week rolls around and the CEO just says, “oh sorry I forgot to do it.” But there's such a sense of accountability when your name is on a line and there's a deadline.
Emma: And then the person who reports to you can hold you accountable by saying, “I can't do this next step until you talk to Emma.” Accountability is the most important thing between a CEO and a CDO because, as C-suite positions, both are responsible for things that are very important and that impact the rest of the team. Making a list at the end of the meeting is a great idea. I've also done it in a Google document so that people can go in and make updates on their own. So that's another great way of implementing a good tool for a meeting.
Dolph: Are there other tools that you recommend CEOs and CEOs use.
Emma: So I am a big fan of a work plan. I often ask my clients to put into place some sort of work plan for the development function as a whole with then some tabs that are a little bit more granular. For example, the main tab has all the things we're going to accomplish this year as a development team. We have four events, three solicitations of capital gifts, major donor solicitations, etc. All of that is now together as a snapshot that a board member or executive director can look at and understand what's happening. So that's the first thing I'd recommend - updated weekly by the CDO weekly and by other team members.
Then additional tabs I the spreadsheet for in-depth detail of each goal. For the full benefit of the example, the in-depth tab might list all of the things that we need to do or decide on an event: location, linens, flowers, meal, etc. If somebody wants more granular information, it will be in the spreadsheet. And, again, I really like the idea of a shared to drive where everyone has access and can update it real time.
Dolph: Obviously, a strong and trusting relationship is important to ensuring that your CDO sticks around, but what else can CEOs and organizations do to break out of that cycle of CDOs resigning every 16 to 20 months?
Emma: The CEO's really needs to talk to the board about fundraising and advocate on behalf of the development team. The CEO needs to be that front line between the fundraising staff and the board. They really need to be there front and center and say here's what we're doing and why. Here's what's going well here's what's not going well. And here's how you board members need to help with fundraising.
Dolph: But so we've all seen board members say “We're going to step up to the plate. We're going to help with fundraising and folks might even take five names each.” Then six weeks later, none of those people have been called. No coffee has been poured. No meetings have occurred. So what happens from there?
Emma: It's so true and boy we see it all the time. I think I've seen it with almost every client that I've had and it's not because there's a lack of interest in trying on behalf of the board members or on behalf of the staff. Like I said, the CEO's job is to be that intermediary between their development staff and the board, and it's the CDO’s job to manage those individual tasks with the board members. To call me and say, “Emma you're a board member and said you're going to have coffee with Dolph. What have you done so far? How can I help you? Do you want me to set it up? Can I give you talking points?” The CDO’s role is to interface with those board members and be a taskmaster. Because I think often the struggle is that board members don't really feel like they have the tools and the tricks to do what they need to do. So they just avoid it, and it's easier to do that because they're volunteers. So CDO’s also often leave because they feel like the board isn't supporting them. But sometimes it's because the CDO really needs to understand how they need to support the board in order to make that work.
Dolph: That's what I was going to ask. Do you think most CDO’s fully understand that if a board member is not following through on fundraising tasks, they should call the person ask what help they need or offer to schedule the meeting?
Emma: I think CDOs often have so many things to do. They forget that volunteer board members are not immersed in the day-to-day of the nonprofit. They understand the mission; they're passionate; they’re donors (probably, hopefully). But they often still don't have everything they need to really get the job done. And I've found that the best way to approach a board member who isn't following through on commitments is to make a phone call or a coffee date with them to ask “What's keeping you from doing the things that you say you're going to do? Is it time? Is it tools? Is it me?” Board members may feel nervous, scared or don't feel trained and that is the CDO’s job for sure.
Dolph: Is there anything else that organizations can do to help increase that retention rate?
Emma: Two things. The first is celebrating success. Fundraising is really rewarding work but getting to those numbers year after year is really hard work. I recommend CEOs really celebrate any success small or large of your fundraising team. And I say that for CDOs as well. There's a lot of great energy that comes from celebrating the success of your team whether it's a team of one or a team of 20. So celebrate success in a way that works for your organization - whether it's a group lunch, a bell that you ring, small gifts, or days off or whatever. There are lots of different ways to motivate your staff to stick around. So that's the first thing. And then the second thing is professional development. Often CEOs forget that CDO’s while they're in a chief fundraising seat still have lots to learn. All of us have lots to learn. Fundraising is changing every day.
And there are new things every year that come out that we as fundraisers need to know about. So CEOs giving the CDOs a little bit of room to grow room to learn.
Dolph: I think it’s really critical to take the time to go to seminars, webinars and conferences. I certainly do this my own practice: I set aside about $5,000 a year for continuing education. And I find some of my most creative moments come because I'm sitting in a room with other colleagues and I start to get great ideas. Sometimes I even get ideas that aren’t even aligned with the topic of the conference or presentation. So I do think continuing education is really important for CDOs because they’re going to get great ideas and bring them back.
Emma: That's exactly right. Actually, that happened to me very recently I was at a great conference here in Pittsburgh. I was listening to this really powerful keynote speaker. And an idea came to me for my business that had nothing to do with what the keynote speaker. I mean you go out and it was really great creative space. We don't give ourselves time to do that. And a CDO often doesn't have time in their day to day to do that because you're managing teams and donors and managing up and out and over. So it's really great to create that space.
Dolph: Can I throw in one other idea that I think is really important to CDO retention. And it's a dirty word. It's a dirty word in the nonprofit sector but that word is “money”. While I don't really do searches, I help with succession planning for everybody in the C suite; and I'm always shocked when I talk to an organization that says, “We want a development director who can solicit six figure gifts, understands annual campaigns, and supervise a grant writer and a special events coordinator. We want to pay them $59,000 a year.” I'm always shocked because the organization essentially wants a high-end sales executive but pay for an entry level professional.
Emma: Right. That happens all the time. And this is also another dirty secret that nobody likes to talk about in nonprofits: You have to spend money to make money and to find a great professional. You need to really understand how to meet their needs salary-wise and benefits package. You need to really figure out how to do that so that they are rewarded for the hard work they do. There's a reason why in the AFP [Association of Fundraising Professionals] code of ethics you can't pay a consultant just for the money that they bring in. The CDO is working round the clock and often it's not a 9 to 5 job. And so you do need to compensate for that. I agree 100 percent.
Dolph: I recently had a breakfast conversation with a development director who had been at the same institution for a little more than 20 months. He said, “I'm currently being heavily recruited by this other organization which honestly pays their fundraisers 50 percent more.” He asked for my career advice whether to change jobs or stay with his current organization. I'm a major donor to his current employer, but I had to advise him to seriously consider the offer. I essentially said, “You're a young professional and you need to be thinking about your career. If you can get a 50 percent jump in salary now in your early 30s, that is going to pay dividends for the next 35 years. Especially if they have training and promotion opportunities that are as good or better than your current organization.” He ultimately decided to accept the job, and his former lost a really promising young development professional because they just weren't willing to pay what the market demands.
Emma: I think paying what the market demands is really important. And I think some nonprofits forget to do their homework. They forget to look at what their sister and brother organizations are doing (their competitors, their peers). You really need to look at this because it's easy to jump in development with skills transferring easily. And there are lots of opportunities for jumping up both in seniority and also in salary. And so really thinking about these two things: how do you professionally develop somebody (whether it's through adding more responsibilities, giving them opportunities to go to conferences, etc.) but then also the salary.
Dolph: Those two things are critical to keeping fundraisers. My number-one favorite objection I hear from nonprofits about paying their development officer more is this: if we pay our development director more, they'll make more than our executive director. We’ll have to pay our executive director more too. I just find that objection really funny because they’re expecting a lot from their executive director, too, and probably underpaying them as well.
Dolph: Thank you so much for being our first guest of the new year, Emma. The podcast is starting the year off with a bang because you are on this episode. Here’s a warning to everybody who's coming on the podcast after you. You have set the bar high, and I am excited that you have set the bar high. Thanks to all.
Dolph: I'm especially grateful that you shared ways to help increase the retention of CDO’s because I think that's critical to the success of nonprofits. Now if an organization is interested in working with you - whether it's around CDOs, coaching, or some other consulting need, they can find you at PilotPeakConsulting.com and here’s the last question that I knew I wanted to ask you. PilotPeak Consulting is an interesting name for a consulting firm. Most of us are not so creative; we have things like Goldenburg Group or Smith Consulting & Associates. What is the story behind PilotPeak Consulting.
Emma: I really love the state of Wyoming, and I spent my childhood summers there. My favorite mountain in northwest Wyoming is called Pilot Peak, which is a mountain that served as a beacon because of its very pointy and specific profile. It served as a beacon for pioneers that were seeking a path through the uncharted wilderness that is now Yellowstone National Park. For me, when I think about consulting, I think about myself as sort of a mountaineering guide: You have a place you want to get to, and I'm someone who can lead you there. So that's how Pilot Peak came about.
Dolph: I love it! That is a great origin story. Well thank you again for being on the podcast.
Emma: Thank you so much I really enjoyed it.
Nota Bene: Since this was originally published as an audio podcast, we have lightly edited the transcript. You can hear the entire interview at the Successful Nonprofits Podcast Website.
By Guest Contributor Katelyn Murphy McCarthy
About 64,300,000 results in 0.69 seconds
That's what you get when you Google Strategic Planning Process. The Google search links to scholarly articles, general guidelines, ads for templates and consultants, and lots of do-it-yourself models. There is no shortage of information about strategic planning.
Undoubtedly, a strategic plan is a comprehensive yet easily readable document that serves as a roadmap to the future, keeping the organization on track while maintaining focus on mission and vision. Good strategic plan goals are quantifiable and reviewed on a quarterly basis.
Surely then, every nonprofit organization has a strategic plan, right? Well…maybe not.
Over half of nonprofits lack a current strategic plan
“Maybe they had one in 1976, or one that ended in 2016," according to Dolph Goldenburg, firm principal with the Goldenburg Group. "Those that have a strategic plan often do it because a funder requires it. Sometimes the executive director and board chair throw it together, ask for board approval, and call it a strategic plan. And a number of organizations use consultants who claim to be able to deliver a strategic plan for $500-$1,000.”
Goldenburg has participated in strategic planning processes from multiple viewpoints: twice as an executive director, multiple times as a board member, once as a board chair, and many times as the facilitating consultant.
"I've taken the best of strategic planning from each experience, and combined them into a process I call Participatory Strategic Planning.”
Participatory Strategic Planning
The participatory planning process starts with the formation of a work group. The consultant designs a comprehensive environmental scan for the work group to complete, and an important component of the scan is the identification and interviewing of key stakeholders. Analysis of financial trends, programmatic outcomes, fundraising assessment, board effectiveness and future trends are also developed and reviewed by the work group.
At a full board retreat, the work group presents its findings and recommendations for the board’s consideration and feedback. Following the retreat, the consultant and work group develop tactical plans for achieving the agreed-upon goals, and a final strategic plan is approved by the full board.
A unique aspect of Goldenburg's process is quarterly check-ins with the director and board chair for a full year after the strategic plan is approved. Following each check-in, Goldenburg prepares a report for the board to review.
What does this look in real life?
Two Atlanta-area nonprofits recently went through the Participatory Strategic Planning process with The Goldenburg Group. Each brought unique needs to the table, and they will be featured in upcoming blog posts this month.
Grateful thanks to the Georgia Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for the opportunity to facilitate their strategic planning process. We are proud of The Goldenburg Group's role in facilitating the plan, which resulted in an incredible new strategic plan for GCDHH.
They just released this press release to tell the world about it:
Imagine a world where a nonprofit buys a for-profit company. While nonprofit expansion through strategic acquisition isn’t unheard of in the health care and senior living industries, it almost never happens in other nonprofit fields.
As a featured conversation on the Successful Nonprofits Podcast, we recently spoke with Dave Shaffer, CEO of Atlanta-based First Step Staffing about their acquisition of a for profit staffing firm.
First Step Staffing was started visionary Greg Block who sought to provide employment opportunities to homeless Atlanta residents. His vision was pure genius in its simplicity: build a staffing agency that provides homeless people temp-to-perm jobs and uses the financial surplus to provide additional client services that support employment and income generation.
Founded in 2006, First Step Staffing was already a successful nonprofit by any standard measure. The organization had enjoyed steady growth until it approached a $2 million annual budget, and the budget hovered near this mark for almost half a decade. Each year, hundreds of homeless men and women used First Step Staffing to obtain income, and this income enabled many to obtain housing. But growing beyond the $2 million mark was necessary to impact the lives of even more homeless Atlantans.
It became clear to the organization that expanding its impact required dramatic growth. They could have invested in a larger sales force to pursue additional employers, but this would have taken years to pay off and involved significantly more risk. Instead, they decided to buy a for-profit staffing company because such a purchase would immediately acquire new employer relationships, obtain the infrastructure necessary to support a larger organization, and offer employment to practically any homeless person in Atlanta who was ready to work.
The organization eventually purchased Atlanta’s fifth largest staffing firm, enabling it to grow from a $2 million organization to a $22 million organization. This dramatic expansion also achieved the vision of providing employment to any homeless Atlantan ready and able to work.
Of course, First Step Staffing conducted due diligence on the prospective purchase and ultimately the deal was brokered with a mix of philanthropic dollars, loans, and seller financing. One year after the acquisition, CEO Dave Shaffer reports that their financial projections are better than anticipated, and they don’t anticipate any issues in paying the loans.
After my conversation with First Step Staffing, I wondered if other nonprofits have purchased a for profit company, but couldn’t find many examples. In fact, a google search for “nonprofit buying a for profit company” identified only this Nonprofit Quarterly Article about senior living facilities, and articles about First Step Staffing in Forbes and the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
The fact that national and regional publications have picked up the First Step Staffing story clearly indicates this is an emerging opportunity for nonprofits to consider. Of course, nonprofits enjoy many competitive advantages when purchasing a for profit, including the ability to finance at least part of the purchase through major gifts and grants. This dramatically reduces the risk, while also providing immediate equity necessary for financing the remainder of the purchase.
Since this is not yet a common tool to support a nonprofit’s growth, I brainstormed a few possible purchases nonprofits might consider:
Earlier this week, the White House released “budget blueprint” for the upcoming fiscal year. While not a formal budget, it offered guidance on White House priorities that included eliminating 9 important federal agencies and many other funding sources (like CSBG and CDBG). I read the 62-page budget blueprint and wrote an extensive blog post yesterday, which you can read here.
With one party in control of the legislative and executive branches, a tsunami of change is inevitable and will impact nearly every nonprofit organization. Like all great storms, the change will come in strong waves: first regulations will get looser or tighten, then funding will rise or fall, and collateral damage on individual households and organizations will be felt throughout the sector.
While paradoxical, some organizations will benefit from the pending changes, others will be at a disadvantage, and the most adaptable organizations will emerge stronger and more resilient than before.
As a nonprofit consultant, podcaster, and supporter, I have been very surprised by the number of nonprofit organizations continuing with “business as usual”.
To continue the storm analogy, it feels like organizations have been warned a major storm is coming, but they are not filling sandbags, recruiting people to help, and identifying ways to stormproof their organizations. With their grant contracts secure for another 12 – 24 months, they aren’t currently preparing for possible government funding cuts of 25% - 100%.
This lack of action is understandable because so many organizations aren’t even sure where to start, but most organizations still have time to act. For this reason, I’ve outlined five steps your organization can take now to position your organization for changing times:
#1: Invest in Fundraising!
The two most important factors in fundraising success are developing a plan and having the appropriate staff. For this reason, allocate the funds necessary to evaluate your fundraising efforts, create (or revise) your fundraising plan, and hire the right staff to implement this plan.
Some organizations, such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, have even used the current rhetoric as a rallying cry to raise more funds. The daily news coverage of dramatic policy changes gives them a new reason to solicit donors every morning!
Remember: the ability to raise more funds from individuals will always serve your mission well.
#2: Get Media Ready!
Regardless of your mission, reporters will want to speak with those impacted by policy decisions. Prepare your organization by identifying spokespeople, crafting talking points, preparing clients to speak with reporters, and letting reporters know you can offer real people impacted by policy who are also ready to be interviewed.
When pitching ideas to the media, remember that your organization’s story is best told through people you serve. For example, people are more likely to learn about 300 low-income clients losing health insurance if one brave patient is willing to tell her story to the local news.
#3: Prepare to Advocate!
Empower your board members, volunteers, donors and clients to advocate for policies that promote and support your mission. Specifically, ask them to call legislators when relevant legislation is being considered and make sure they know how to submit public comment to local, state, and Federal agencies that are legally required to consider citizen input before changing policy.
#4: Join an Association!
In addition to joining your state or local nonprofit resource center, actively participate in an association for organizations with similar missions and services. You should expect your mission-based association will alert you of pending legislation, policy changes, and court decisions that will impact all organizations providing similar services.
Joining an association will benefit your organization in many other areas. In fact, an effective association will provide your organization with technical assistance, leadership development, program development, and fundraising support specific to your mission and the services you provide.
#5: Revisit your strategic plan!
When the environment changes, it is always a good idea to review and revise your plan. If your organization’s funding may get cut by 15% or the demand for your service may increase by 10%, it is better to plan for the possibility before it becomes a reality.
If your organization’s environment changes dramatically, however, you may need to begin a new strategic planning process. This is especially true if your organization is in the high-risk red zone on the Trump Risk Matrix below:
Yesterday the White House released Donald Trump’s “budget blueprint” that outlines his spending priorities and cuts for the upcoming fiscal year. Knowing that this budget blueprint would have broad implications for nonprofits across the nation, I sat down this morning to read the 62 page document and summarize changes that nonprofits should anticipate.
In order to disseminate this information quickly, this report includes screen captures of the actual document and has not been carefully proofed for pesky “type ohs” (sic).
In his letter transmitting the budget blueprint to congress, Donald Trump noted, “. . . .I submit to the Congress this Budget Blueprint to reprioritize Federal spending so that it advances the safety and security of the American people.” After reading the document, I can attest that his budget blueprint does indeed increase funding for national defense, border control, and law enforcement. But it jeopardizes the security of many of our poorest citizens – their food security, housing security, and neighborhood security.
While this report primarily focuses on the impact the budget blueprint will have on nonprofit organizations, the greatest impact will be on low-income Americans of all ages, ethnicities, and geographies. They will feel the impact the most because they will be affected by declining nonprofit services and declining government sector services.
It is also important to note that the President has essentially issued a policy paper. There is still time for nonprofits, their associations, and their clients to advocate and change the actual budget.
With these caveats, let’s walk through the budget.
Funding Sources Proposed for Elimination
Funding Sources Proposed for a Significant Decrease
Funding Sources Proposed for an Increase
Funding Sources to Continue But No Clarity On Funding Levels
Elimination of Agencies
The budget blueprint calls for the elimination of agencies that form our country’s social safety net. These are the agencies that ensure justice for everyone, promote economic mobility, ensure equal access to the arts, and often give people their first job out of college or their last job before retirement. Under this budget blueprint, funding for the following independent agencies will be completely eliminated:
Appalachian Regional Commission:
$0 in FY 2018. ARC was founded in 1965 to close the close the profound socioeconomic gaps between Appalachia and the rest of the nation. ARC serves 420 predominantly rural counties with a combined population of over 25 million rural Americans. The Commission operates programs and provides grants that make the Appalachian region more competitive in education, entrepreneurialism, infrastructure, and tourism. In recent years, it has devoted significant resources to helping the region’s economy transition away from being coal-dependent. Verdict: Rural Appalachia will lose support for economic development.
The Corporation for National and Community Service:
$0 in FY 2018. This national agency engages over 5 million Americans in service every year, including 75,000 AmeriCorps members and 270,000 Senior Corps. CNCS also operates the Social Innovation Fund, Volunteer Generation Fund, Days of Service campaigns. These important volunteer programs, which include grants to many nonprofits, will be eliminated. Verdict: Fewer volunteers for nonprofits, fewer organizations with the infrastructure to support volunteers.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting:
$0 in FY 2018. CPB strives to support diverse programs and services that inform, educate, enlighten and enrich the public. Through grants, CPB encourages the development of content that addresses the needs of underserved audiences, especially children and minorities. CPB also funds multiple digital platforms used by thousands of public media producers and production companies throughout the country. CPB issued 575 large grants to support 1,498 public radio and TV stations. 70% of the organization’s budget goes directly to local public TV and radio stations, 248 of which are rural. Verdict: Public broadcasting will likely survive in areas with higher population density (cities and suburbs), but rural areas will lose this important resource for local programming and news.
Institute of Museum and Library Services:
$0 in FY 2018. This Federal agency supports the growth and development of museums of all sizes. Of note, it provides capacity building grants to small and medium-size cultural institutions in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Verdict: Struggling cultural organizations across the country will have more barriers to becoming a sustainable institution. Many will close.
Legal Services Corporation:
$0 in FY 2018. Provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. LSC promotes equal access to justice by providing funding to 134 independent non-profit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories. LSC grantees serve thousands of low-income individuals, children, families, seniors, and veterans in 813 offices in every congressional district. Verdict: Fewer low-income Americans will have access to legal representation when they need it most.
National Endowment for the Arts:
$0 in FY 2018. The NEA funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation. In FY 2015, the NEA awarded more than 2,300 grants in every Congressional district in the country, roughly half intended to reach underserved populations. Through its direct grant making, the NEA will support more than 30,000 concerts, readings, and performances and more than 5,000 exhibitions of visual and media arts with annual, live attendance of 33 million. NEA-supported broadcast performances on television, radio, and cable will have additional audiences of at least 360 million. Verdict: Organizations often use grant-matching requirements to encourage local giving of the arts. There will be fewer performances and exhibits and less local support for the Arts.
National Endowment for the Humanities:
The NEH supports scholarly and cultural activity in order to achieve a better understanding of the past, a better analysis of the present, and a better view of the future. NEH grants typically go to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars. Verdict: Less funding for the humanities.
Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation:
The NRC seeks to promote reinvestment in urban, suburban and rural communities by local financial institutions working cooperatively with residents and local government. It funds 235 community based organizations that build resilient, sustainable, and engaged neighborhoods. Verdict: Neighborhoods suffering from blight and economic disparities will not experience growth.
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness:
This federal agency coordinates and catalyzes the federal response to homelessness among the 19 Federal agencies tasked with addressing the issue, as well as governors, mayors, and continuum of care leaders. Verdict: With less coordination of homeless intervention efforts, many communities will experience duplication of services.
And The Cuts Keep Coming
While the President proposes the wholesale elimination of many agencies, his budget priorities will impact funding and services in several key areas:
Food Security and Housing
The budget proposes eliminating the discretionary programs within the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Community Services. This includes the
Affordable Housing will be harder to build and harder to obtain.
In eliminating both the Community Development Block Grant and the HOME Investment Program, there will be fewer resources to build affordable housing and fewer resources to support those entering or in affordable housing.
Of course, the Community Development Block Grant does more than just help homeless people. It also provides vital services like meals on wheels for home bound seniors, supports community centers providing after school activities, and much more. In a recent year, the CDBG touched the lives of over 73,000 Americans with housing, 17,000 with economic development, and 38 million with facility improvements in their communities
Finally, nonprofit builders of affordable housing will have fewer resources for capacity building with the elimination of Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing. Consequently, they will also have a lower capacity for actually building housing.
Workforce and Economic Development
Workforce and Economic Development efforts will be taking hits as well. This includes less support for minority businesses and small- to medium-size manufacturers (the text from the budget blueprint is inserted below):
Nonprofits that provide workforce development and job training will experience significantly more demand for their services, as the government eliminates or decreases its job training programs.
With the elimination of the Senior Community Service Employment Program, older workers over age 55 will have fewer opportunities to reenter the workforce. Of note, this program funds 19 national nonprofit organizations that place older workers with employers for a risk-free trial period. During this time, the program funds 100% of the worker’s salary and subsidizes the salary for several months if the employer chooses to hire the older worker. Typically about a third of program participants are hired after the trial period, and many nonprofits have also used this program to recruit and hire older workers.
In an interesting twist of logic, the White House also recommends, “improving Job Corps” by closing under-performing Job Corps centers. It is not recommending replacing those centers that are closed, which means that many low income people will now lose access to their nearest Job Corps training center:
Finally, as seen throughout the budget blueprint, the President seeks to stop funding Federal programs with the expectation that states, municipalities, and employers will find the funds necessary to provide these programs for low-income job training and workforce development.
Also impacting nonprofit healthcare providers, they should anticipate more aggressive monitoring of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements:
Healthcare and Disease Prevention
The budget blueprint also calls for 20% less funding for NIH, with a significant but undisclosed impact on research grants that will be “rebalanced”.
Ryan White funded healthcare for people living with HIV/AIDS appears safe, but it also depends on the definition of “supports”. Most of the narrative in the blue print is clear whether funds will be increasing, decreasing, or remaining the same, but it is not clear when referring to Ryan White. For this reason, “supports” leaves me suspicious.
Also nonprofit healthcare providers should anticipate more aggressive monitoring of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, as the blueprint seeks a $70 million increase in efforts to investigate healthcare fraud and abuse through these programs.
Nonprofits engaged in educating our children and young adults will also have fewer resources to support their students. As outlined below, public schools will have fewer resources for providing remedial help to under-performing students, and nonprofit organizations serving youth will have additional demands to provide educational and social support to these students.
The Supporting Effective Instruction program will be eliminated. This $2.4 billion program supports ongoing State and local efforts to ensure that every child has access to effective teachers. Funds implement educator evaluation systems that provide meaningful feedback and support to teachers and school leaders, prepare educators to implement standards, and attract and retain the best teachers and leaders in high-need schools.
The budget blueprint also eliminates the $1.2 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. This program supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for over 2.2 million children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. As a result of this program, 36% of the students experienced an improvement in math grades, 36% experienced an improvement in English grades, and 50% of the students’ teachers reported an increase in homework completion.
In addition to eliminating the striving readers program, which provides additional help for students reading below grade level, the budget blueprint also eliminates or reduces more than 20 unnamed programs.
President Trump appears to be fulfilling his promise to take care of our nation’s veterans by increasing funding for veteran healthcare by $4.6 billion, though his commitment on veteran homelessness is not as concrete. The budget blueprint merely indicates "support". This seems vague enough to make us worry about possible cuts in grants to address homeless vets:
With decreased funding for legal service corporations, decreased support for services benefiting our nation’s poorest residents, and an increase in immigration enforcement, the White House is preparing for an increase in Federal arrests:
Legal Service Corporations will have more demand for service from those arrested, while having fewer resources to represent them. Additionally, many of those arrested will be their household’s primary earner, which will place additional burdens on nonprofit organizations serving the poor in their community.
About the Author
In less than one week, Americans everywhere will have one final opportunity to vote. I say one final opportunity – because many have had the opportunity to vote in the primaries and vote early in the general election.
According to the census bureau, just 92 million Americans voted in the last national election – while the nearly 240 million Americans are of voting age in this country. In other words, only 38.5% of adults over age 18 voted. The Census bureau asked registered voters who did not vote to explain their reason for not participating in the election. The most common reasons:
Those are the two worst reasons for not voting. After all, counties offer absentee ballot options for this very reason. That’s right, a county election office would have sent each of these non-voters a paper ballot to fill out in the comfort of their own home while sitting in a Lay-Z-Boy chair.
But wait! The responses non-voters get worse:
What the ?!#%$@&
If you leave the house on Election Day, you will see hundreds to thousands of people wearing stickers proclaiming “I voted”. If you didn’t leave the house – did you fail to turn on the TV, check your newsfeed online?
I think, perhaps, an ascetic monk living in cave in a mountain could use this excuse. Anyone else – it’s another bogus excuse.
Just when you thought the reasons couldn’t get any worse – guess what? They do.
We can assume these folks understand the importance of voting because they went to the trouble to register. But then, when Election Day rolled around they were “not interested”. You may not be interested in spaghetti for dinner tonight; you may not be interested in seeing Paris before you die.
But I sincerely hope you are interested in a civil society, infrastructure, a common defense, and many other issues that we decide by election. How do I know you’re interested in them? Well, if there is a riot in your hometown, you want something done about it (and then say something should have been done sooner). If a bridge you cross every day needs repair, you want it fixed before someone gets hurt. If our nation is at threat, you want it defended.
I’m just about to stop listing every one of these reasons, but here’s one more:
To keep this short, please see the paragraph about absentee ballots.
Our Constitution assigns two critical duties to Citizens, and one of them is to vote.
Whether you are conservative, liberal, or moderate, our nation faces issues that you care about. And Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have dramatically different proposals for addressing these issues.
If you are eligible to vote, it is your constitutional duty to cast a ballot for the person you believe will best serve our country. And saying “I don’t like either of them” is perhaps the worst reason for failing to vote.
You know why? There are a lot of other races you will be voting on, including
So if you haven’t already participated in early voting or cast an absentee ballot, look at your schedule for Tuesday November 8 and plan when you will go to the polls and vote.
Episode 16 of the Successful Nonprofits Podcast delves into developing a professional brand as a nonprofit professional.
Many of us (including this podcaster) started our nonprofit careers without thinking about a professional brand. But how we brand ourselves professionally shapes our career and our lives for years to come. In fact. every stage of a nonprofit professional’s career offers opportunities to brand yourself based on your competencies, core values, and vision.
To help us better understand how to brand ourselves, we spoke with Kristin Battista Frazee, who is truly a renaissance woman. Holding an MSW from Columbia University, she has been a geriatric social worker, legislative assistant at a Capitol Hill lobbying firm, published magazine and book author, marketing consultant, and personal branch coach for social and human service professionals.
We also discussed her book The Pornographer's Daughter: A Memoir of Childhood, My Dad, and Deep Throat, with a special emphasis on what the book can teach us about building a personal brand that overcomes adversity.
Listen on iTunes Android Stitcher Sound CloudVisit the Successful Nonprofits Podcast website to find out about other episodes: www.successfulnonprofits.com
In celebration of New Years, The Goldenburg Group is pleased to provide you this handy checklist for 2016, which includes tasks to ensure a successful year. With just four tasks each month, this guide can keep you on track to reach your goals.
These tasks are based on annual committee work plans outlined in Successful Nonprofits Build Supercharged Boards and is designed for a fiscal year beginning 1/1/2016. We also have checklists for fiscal years beginning 4/1/16, 7/1/16, and 10/1/16 on request.
*Contact The Goldenburg Group if you would like assistance with these tasks.
Copyright 2015, The Goldenburg Group, LLC.
The fine print: Nothing in this document is intended to provide legal, accounting, insurance, or other professional advice. Should you have questions regarding matters in these areas, you should consult a licensed professional. Additionally, since The Goldenburg Group serves organizations in multiple states, this task list does not include any state registration requirements.
You can download a PDF of this document below: