What does the competition mean to you? For starters, if you want to keep your organization active and growing, you need to:
1. Know your mission statement inside and out and make sure it’s relevant:
A crystal-clear “why are we here?” mission statement (also called a case statement) helps keep everyone focused on the organization’s vision. You need to learn about crafting a case statement that speaks to today’s need and touches people’s hearts.
2. Be different.
Know what you offer that is unique to your organization. Be active in local fundraising groups — know who else serves the population you serve. When possible, work with, as opposed to against, other agencies so that you can complement and not duplicate each other.
3. Know what’s out there.
Make it a part of your regular research to know who is funding similar organizations, where leaders in the nonprofit world are migrating, which topics are in the public mainstream right now, and how your mission connects with what’s happening in the world. Stay engaged through social media, e-mail, discussion boards, and every opportunity for a good conversation. You never know where or when great connections will arise.
The Chronicle on Philanthropy is one publication that should be in any fundraiser’s toolkit. Check it out at http://philanthropy.com/
4. Be responsive to the people you serve.
The ever-changing world presents you with opportunities for refocusing and retooling at every turn. If the social ill you battle is no longer viable, step back and reconsider your clients’ needs and your organization’s options.
5. Consider partnerships and new initiatives.
Today traditional nonprofits with a long history and good backing are expanding their missions in ways you may not think of — sometimes partnering with other groups and sometimes adding on to or revising their missions. For example, Goodwill Industries was originally designed to help physically and emotionally challenged adults learn job skills and contribute to society through meaningful work. Their successful program grew and, in the process, the organization discovered that there was a market for the “gently used items” they offer. Today Goodwill Industries is a nationwide organization, and all their activities spring from the heart of their mission. When you’re considering next steps, remember that keeping the doors open or shut aren’t your only two options. Through creative partnerships and mission extensions, you may be able to add new energy
and attract new donors — in the midst of a challenging time.
6. Ask the tough questions. Does your organization meet today’s needs?
For instance, 50 years ago, an agency created to provide lodging to unmarried pregnant women was much needed. Today programs exist in many places to help young single mothers, and single pregnancy no longer carries the same social stigma it once did. An organization that asks itself the hard questions, such as whether what it’s doing is really necessary, and then changes based on the answers won’t be left in the dust when the world around it continues to grow.
7. Be willing to change.
Yep. You read it right. After you answer those tough questions about your organization, you have to be willing to make necessary changes. Especially in large organizations with vested power structures and bureaucratic bends, change is often resisted at the board table. But populations, needs, and services change, so you need to be willing to change with them. Doing so can help protect your agency’s existence.
8. Set deadlines.
Especially when tough decisions are in the air, people may prefer to talk and talk and talk — about what to do but never really get anywhere. You can set a deadline to help establish the expectation that all this discussion will lead to action at a specific time. A deadline helps bring you to a conclusion and positions you to take the next step, which may be just what your organization needs.
9. Put your best foot forward.
People generally dislike crisis appeals if you’re always crying “Wolf!” to bring in funding from various donors,
sooner or later people are going to tire of the continual pleas. Instead, if you can show your donors that you’re part of a winning organization, a force that works for good in the world, you may not only keep their interest but also inspire them to join you in your winning campaign.
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