Where are you?

28 10 2011

Before 1973, no one ever had to ask “where are you?” when they reached you on the telephone.

Of course they knew where you were – you were within 3 feet of the telephone they had called. Now, because of mobile phones, one of the first things we ask when we call someone is, “where are you?”

Where are you? An innocuous question when asked casually, but quite profound when you ask it of your organization. If, in 30 years, the world has changed so we now call individuals instead of a place, what does that say about your nonprofit? Do you still ask your constituents to come to your place, or do your meet them where they are? Have your programs evolved to meet the new mobility of society? Has your mission changed?

Society’s rate of change has accelerated. How often does your board of directors evaluate whether your programs are still relevant, much less whether your mission is? Once every 10 years isn’t enough (and maybe it never was). But certainly ‘never’ shouldn’t be the answer.

How about ‘now?’

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Mission Before Money

28 12 2010

This post was originally on Ingrid Zacharias’ excellent blog, Envisioning the Future.

Capital Campaigns Require Deep Foundations

Ever notice how ancient buildings have deep foundations? Visiting France last year, we took a guided tour of the breathtaking Notre Dame de Chartres – a millennium old church built on the same spot as many churches that came before.  Much of theNotre Dame de Chartres - spires foundation of this church was put into place during Roman times!

It’s the same thing with a capital campaign. A strong campaign needs a strong foundation. You may be sure you need a new building or renovated space, but fundraising will be a long hard slog with a lot of surprises if you don’t build your foundation first.

The absolute first pillar in that foundation is Mission.

For those of us in the nonprofit world, it’s a given that Mission is the essential that drives our entire enterprise. Who are we serving, what are we trying to achieve, what outcome are we working toward?

It’s the same thing with a special campaign. The need for that new building, or renovation, or endowment, starts with how it’s going to serve your mission. If you don’t have a clear mission, easily articulated by each of your constituents, then your campaign is starting with a handicap.

Your school doesn’t need 5 new classrooms; it needs to help 30 more special needs students achieve independence. Your library doesn’t need a new building to house the books and computers; your community needs a safe and free space for the unemployed to seek information about new jobs and get the training they need to pursue them. Your zoo doesn’t need a veterinary clinic to retain accreditation; your community needs to show its children that we are obligated to care for the animals in our world the best way we know how. Your soccer fields don’t need lights for night games; you need to provide an opportunity for people to come together in the evening, building family and community unity.

Mission, then, is the first pillar in your foundation. Is it clear? Compelling? Articulated? Is your potential new project clearly in support of your mission? Most importantly, can everyone associated with your organization recite and support your mission?

Yes? Great! You have the first foundation of a great organization and an excellent campaign. Now build the next pillar: Governance.

Stay tuned!