May 23, 2011
We are all looking for the secret sauce in reaching out to our communities whether it is the perfect language in your next solicitation letter or the call to action at your next gala. It is easy to feel like if you can just share your message the right way the people will follow. Sort of a development version of “if you build it they will come.”
If you meet with people regularly, you start to see themes appear in your conversations and you try to customize how you describe organization to be the very most compelling. Unless you have a great referrals program and your board members and friend do a really good job of introducing you to the community it is hard to just meet new major donors. Most often the people who are willing to meet with you are not the people you want to meet or are not the people that will make the biggest difference for your organization. I have sometimes thought if I could just do a better more compelling job of sharing my message I would be more successful. Maybe that is true, or true in part, but I don’t think it is the solution.
I have been amazed at the value of engaging and being connected in your community. Attending local chamber events and joining a local rotary have been one of the very best ways for me to meet new people. When you are able to meet people face-to-face in a common environment it is way easier to start a new relationship. For this reason it can be immensely valuable to serve on a board and join a committee. When people see you getting involved in your community they view you in a different way.
May 2, 2011
Sometimes it makes a lot of sense to fund the new exciting idea that someone has. Other times it is valuable to take a step back and think about what your long-term plan is going to be. Many funders like to know that they are funding a project that is part of a larger picture. Other funders want the recognition that can come with funding your organization. It is important to know what kind of funder you are working with so you can plan accordingly.
When doing a grant or foundation proposal you will get much further if you have a comprehensive program. Take the time to think about what kinds of outcomes you can produce if you take enough time to do the project right. Are you training a few staff members? What if you trained all your staff members instead, how would that change your outcomes? What might that level of training mean for your organization? What if you did this program once a year or every month, how would that change your outcomes?
When you have a plan like this you can strategize about when and how you approach your funders. Work with your program staff and make sure that they are aware of your overall plan and on board with it. If you have a plan in place before you start, it is much easier to make sure everyone is on the same page. You don’t want to commit to funding a project before you receive approval from your funder or it could make the entire deal more difficult.
What kind of planning process do you undergo when you are approaching a new or existing funder? How do you prepare and set expectations for new projects? Have you ever lost a deal with a funder because of lack of internal coordination?