Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Successful not-for-profits plan for the future

Fund Raising – Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow . . .
Sometimes even valuable agencies go out of business due to a failure to plan for the future.  One example is a now former local social services agency in my county.  The organization was forced to cease operations after only a couple of years, even though it seemed to have all the right things going for it.  It filled an unmet need in the community.  It did not duplicate the services of any other organization.  What had the leadership failed to do?  Why was did the organization fail?  How can your favorite cause avoid the same fate?  Read on.
This organization was formed with a five-year grant from the state.  Although nationally affiliated, this was the first chapter in our county and the need for its services were not being met by any other local agency. 
Using the state grant money, it obtained office space, hired staff – including a social worker – and began operations.  Right away a waiting list developed of people in need of this service, and the agency was up and running!
Two years later it learned that its state funding was being terminated due to the state’s poor fiscal condition.  With that news, the organization's leaders immediately terminated the social worker and began to recruit a volunteer board of directors who could help raise money from private sources.  It was too little too late.
                What did they do wrong?  What should they have done differently?  Here are a few suggestions that you should consider and share with any agency in which you are involved that seems to be making the same mistakes.
·         First, they started the program before putting the organizational structure in place.  If they had recruited a volunteer board right away, they would already have had a resource of help, ideas, and community ambassadors they could turn to when the going got rough.
·         Second, they made a dangerous assumption – that the state grant was secure.  Consequently, they relied on a single source of income.  As any savvy investor knows, diversity is the key.  The same applies to fund raising.  They should have begun development of a comprehensive fund raising plan immediately.  It is important to plan ahead.  Even if the state grant had been secure, they should have begun planning for the day the grant ended.

What’s the message here?  Sometimes, in our haste to get started we overlook the importance of laying the groundwork for elements – such as boards and fund raising plans – that need to be in place before we need them!  One of the biggest obstacles for successful fund raising is the failure to do today that which you might not need until later.  Because when you need it, it may be too late!

Kathryn Lima, founder of Faro Enterprises, is a consultant with over 30 years experience in marketing, public relations, and fundraising.  Send your questions about fundraising to her via e-mail – klima@faroenterprises.com.   Her web address is www.faroenterprises.com

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