Giving Tuesday, the Global Day of Philanthropy is on Tuesday, November 28. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is partnering with Facebook again this year to provide a match up to $2 million to donors who give during that day.
Here are the specifics of this match:
Donations made to participating nonprofit organizations through Facebook’s charitable giving tools beginning at 8:00 am EST on November 28 will be matched — up to $50,000 per nonprofit, or $1,000 per fundraiser or donate button — until the matching funds run out. Facebook and the Gates Foundation are contributing $1 million each for the campaign, and all matched funds will be paid out to nonprofits through Network for Good’s donor-advised fund.
So, what can your organization do to prepare?
Here are some simple steps that I have been recommending to nonprofits to take advantage of this match:
1 – Determine what your Giving Tuesday monetary and non-monetary goals are. How much do you want to raise? How many new donors do you want to attract?
2 – Ensure that you have activated your Facebook “Donate” button first and foremost. Ensure that you are using Facebook’s full scope of charitable giving tools. Otherwise, you will not be eligible for the match. You also want to ensure that your pages are branded so that folks can recognize the Giving Tuesday campaign.
3 – Ensure that your website and online donation portal are up-to-speed and ready to go. Make sure that you rigorously test them. Your website and donation portal should be easy for a donor to use and navigate. Donating should not be difficult.
4 – If you have work to do on your donor lists, now is the time. Make sure that they all get uploaded into your Donor Management System, particularly your email addresses.
5 – Draft your social media and email messaging now. You will want to announce this match opportunity in advance as well as send out reminders the day before, the day of, and an acknowledgement the day after. Use key days such as “Black Friday” as messaging points. Be sure to use photos, videos, and testimonials. Consider integrating into your current calendar year-end campaign.
6 – Be sure to recruit ambassadors as social media messengers for your cause during this campaign. You may want to enlist your Board, staff, and volunteers to help spread the word about your GIving Tuesday by sharing your social media messages with their family and friends. If you are using Peer-to-Peer Fundraising, then get your folks set-up and engaged in advance of the actual day.
7 – Develop a plan to steward these Giving Tuesday donors once Giving Tuesday is complete, and you begin marching into December.
These are some simple steps that you can take to begin to plan for your Giving Tuesday campaign.
Now, I want to hear from you. What steps is organization taking to prepare for this day of giving?
Many organizations when seeking to start their first development office do not which way to turn or where to start first.
Far too many organizations often start and end with grant writing. They don’t get beyond this particular strategy and never get to the point of having a diversified fundraising function.
If done correctly from the start, organizations can set themselves up for success both today and well into the future.
With a few simple steps taken right from the start of your new fundraising office, you can create a strong and impactful program that will support your organizations mission well into the future.
Let me share with you steps on how to set up your fundraising office for success
1 – Start by conducting an assessment of the organization’s opportunities and challenges including getting an accurate read on the culture in which fundraising will operate. Does the organization have different programs and functions that operate differently, perhaps off-site, or on other campuses?
2 – Research and obtain a Donor Management System. Excel and Access are not database systems that you can efficiently use for development purposes. Today’s software is geared towards building the most effective development program at simple pushes of buttons. Many provide dashboards with important metrics built in so that you can instantly gauge important development benchmarks such as donor retention and donor engagement. Many also offer wealth screening capabilities for modest fees. These days an organization does not have to go with the top-of-the-line software suite to have a substantial impact on its development program.
3 – Then I would determine what the leverage points are for your organization based on the prospective donor base demographics. At this point, creating an ideal donor profile would be helpful. After creating this donor profile, you can then use that profile to find donors that match up to the characteristics that you have identified. This profile will help you to define your strategies. For instance, if you are a senior housing program, a reasonable approach that your organization should consider is planned giving and what I have termed a “Grateful Resident” Program. If you are a domestic violence shelter, then perhaps a special event to bring awareness to your mission.
4 – One thing that you can immediately start doing is to conduct grant research. Most charities are eligible for some form of private and public support. With the lead time necessary both in conducting research and in the application process, it behooves organizations to conduct the research straight out. Some application deadlines are months away and in some cases, foundations take months to make decisions. So, this is one area that you don’t want to delay in starting.
5 – Start to build a culture of philanthropy that supports your development program whether that is one-on-one meetings or “Meet and Greet” events. The important thing is to dispel myths surrounding fundraising. Most Board members do not have clear instructions and expectations regarding their role in fund development. Most are afraid of it, given the fear that they are expected to ask for money or to ask their friends in a “quid pro” way. So, meet and speak with those closest in your organization so that they get an understanding of what philanthropy and development are in support of your efforts. From there, you can work with each of them to begin developing a prospect list with a new understanding of the important purpose.
So there you have the simple steps that you can immediately take to build your organization’s first development office to support and even supercharge your charitable mission.
These are the same steps that I use when setting up a client’s first development office. And, they work!
Far too often I see organizations using a blanket approach with their donor base. With a few minor tweaks in their strategy, they can increase their revenues by a third, sometimes even double.
What strategies do I recommend?
Well, what I often see is that one of the most overlooked areas of planning in small to mid-sized nonprofits is segmentation and personalization of their campaigns.
What do I mean, don’t send everyone the same letter for starters.
Let me share with you steps on how to segment and then personalize your year-end fundraising efforts.
1 – Start by determining all of your different donor segments and audiences. For instance, you may have Board members, Honorary Trustees, major donors, planned giving donors, monthly donors, lapsed donors, LYBUNTS, loyal and consistent donors, staff, volunteers, etc.
2 – Once you have your “buckets” of possible segmented donors, then begin to think about your various approaches to them. For instance, with major donors “hold” their letters, and instead engage the Board of Directors in making personal visits and calls. Also, have designated staff members conduct an in-house campaign.
3 – Once you have determined your specific strategies for segments, you will move to creating your actual solicitation approaches. For personal and telephone solicitations, you may need a “pre-call” letter and a packet of collateral materials with the letter prepared.
4 – For the bulk of your segments, you will probably be utilizing some form of direct mail appeal. Do NOT use a “Dear Friend” letter. In today’s age, mail merging even in office is easy and simple to do.
5. I do NOT recommend using a generic, blanket letter approach. Instead, you want to custom tailor a letter for each segment identified. What do I mean? Well, in most cases, you are not going to create an entirely new letter for each segment. What I recommend you do is creating a paragraph or two of custom-tailored text that you will insert into a “base” letter. You may have loyal and consistent donors who have been giving to you for multiple years. In this case, you may have a paragraph front and center that thanks them for all their past support of the organization. For a sample of segments and custom tailored text, email me!
6 – You may also personalize gift strings. Personalizing gift stings helps to upgrade donors to a higher giving level. There are many formulas to use, but pick one and be consistent.
7 – Once you custom tailor the letter and the gift strings, then you need to determine if you will use a “lift” note or write personal notes right on the letters themselves and to what segments of donors are you using this technique.
8 – Determine how you are going to mail these letters. Major donors you may want to consider sending a personalized letter with a first-class stamp. Other donors you may want to use a non-profit pre-cancelled stamp or bulk mail indicia.
9. All of these techniques can be done for your online audiences as well. You can custom tailor segments in your email marketing provider program, create separate emails, and email out to them. Don’t forget when doing second or third emails to filter out all those who have given by using a dynamic filter.
So there you have the simple steps that you can immediately take to enhance your year-end fundraising campaign to inspire your donor’s sights to support your charitable mission.
These are the same steps that I use when designing and implementing my client’s year-end fundraising campaign. And, they work!
A lapsed donor is one who has lapsed from giving at least a calendar year. They are the most significant donors to focus your efforts on re-engaging since they have already demonstrated an interest in your organization.
There are several ways to re-engage these lapsed donors. Here are some suggestions that you can implement within your organization.
Identify those donors who gave last year and yet have to donate this year. Those are your lapsed donors.
Add up the total giving from these lapsed donors. Surely after seeing this number, you will want to spend some time trying to recapture them.
Segment out the major donors from this list. A major donor giving level will vary from organization to organization i.e. $250, $500, $1,000, or even more.
Share this list with your Development Committee of the Board and discuss the plan of action.
Have Board members identify those major donors that they can personally call on.
Intend to call on these donors either through personal visits or telephone to secure a gift commitment.
Plan to send a specialized segmented direct mail letter to all others not identified as major donors.
You could also use this same strategy for each appeal that you send out to be proactively trying to prevent lapsing from occurring in the first place.
You have just been offered a job as a Director of Development and now what?
Well, over the past twenty years, I have had my share of jobs and have started some fundraising offices within nonprofits as part of my consulting practice. As a result, I have gotten pretty good at figuring out what the first steps need to be when setting up your development office.
I am going to share with you some of these first steps on what to get started with immediately to make your first three months a success. These first three months are a particular time of “newness” that you can use to your advantage.
Step #1 – Get established on your working location and equipment. Ensure you set up your office area so that it will be conducive to your work style and habits and ensure that you have all of the hardware and software you need including training.
Step #2 – If you don’t have the required software, don’t skimp by using Excel. Start right out by determining what your current and future needs may be and begin to research and present options for a donor database/CRM system that will meet those needs. You cannot build a successful development program without this foundational component. It is the “brains” behind your program.
Step #3 – Begin conducting a development assessment of the past fundraising efforts of the organization.
Step #4 – To carry out this assessment and to get acclimated to the new organization, use this time to meet with
Key leadership staff
Board of Directors
Any past and/or current donors
Anyone else deemed important to the organization
Step #5 – Use the data that you obtain during this development assessment process to begin to put together a series of recommendations based on best practices that you can put into place during your tenure. Share these recommendations with key leadership and Board members to obtain approval and “buy-in.”
Step #6 – Begin to immerse yourself in the new organization’s programs and services.
Step #7 – Begin to craft a Case for Support if your organization does not already have one in place.
Step #8 – Determine the key projects that need attention in the immediate future and begin to manage them. Get a handle on your development calendar including your annual fund and grant application and reporting deadlines.
Step #9 – Begin to put into place some of the recommendations that you outlined after conducting your development assessment whether they focus on major gifts, planned giving, individual giving, direct mail, etc.
These are some easy and straightforward ways that you can get up to speed quickly and efficiently in your new role and have an immediate impact on your organization’s fund development program. Early wins=your success.
An important part of any fundraising campaign is how you plan on recognizing your donors at different giving levels. While donor recognition opportunities do not motivate all donors, the fact is that some are. And, you need to be prepared to offer this valuable tool to inspire the sights of your donors who are motivated by public forms of recognition. Different things motivate different donors. So, always begin by knowing your donor.
Below I share with you a step-by-step method to creating Donor Recognition Opportunities that will inspire your donors to set their sights higher. And, public recognition inspires all donors from big to small and for all kinds of fundraising campaigns, not just capital ones.
There are several important guidelines that one should consider first before actually coming up with the recognition opportunities.
First, it is important that you have several recognition opportunities available for your donors to select.
Second, the top-level gift should be larger than the largest gift projected during the fundraising campaign.
Third, the cumulative values of the donor recognition opportunities should add up to significantly greater than the overall fundraising goal.
And, lastly, the donor recognition opportunity should be two to three times the costs of construction, furnishings, or overall costs of the opportunity.
Once you have given these guidelines consideration, here is how you can establish your donor recognition opportunities step-by-step.
Step #1 – Invite key staff and volunteers to a Donor Recognition Planning Meeting and review your building plans or fundraising campaign outline.
Step #2 – Brainstorm all of the possible named gift opportunity “places” or “things” i.e. main lobby, flag pole, endowed department, scholarships, staff positions, etc. Think expansively and creatively remembering that nothing is off limits.
Step #3 – Write each possible brainstormed building place on a sticky note and put them on the wall in random order.
Step #4 – Look at your campaign gift range chart and determine how many gifts are needed at each level to reach your goal.
Step #5 – Determine the “Curb Appeal” gifts. These gifts are those that provide value for the opportunity and are not necessarily just based on gift size. For instance, a lobby will hold more “curb appeal” than say a large industrial kitchen located in the back of a facility hardly ever seen by the general public.
Step #6 – Match the top “Curb Appeal” gift with naming opportunity that is the largest on the list, etc.
Step #7 – Be sure to present this Donor Recognition Plan to the Board to ensure that they approve of your plans. Ensure that the Board votes to approve this plan. Don’t skip over this step! You need the Board’s support.
There are also other ways that you can recognize your donors. For instance, you can recognize mid-level to lower-level givers with a group plaque, listing in the print donor honor roll, or on the organization’s website. You may also choose to run brick and pavers or wall tile program. And, inevitably, you will recognize all of your donors at a post-campaign celebratory event.
One thing that you do need to ensure is that you are consistent with how you recognize your donors. Everyone needs to be treated equally regarding what his or her gift will afford in a named gift opportunity.
And, now the organization is ready to begin asking for gifts from donors using these different named gift opportunities as a way to motivate donors to step up their giving to the campaign.
Now that it is development planning season for many with the start of a new fiscal year looming, I am often asked, where do you start first when putting together your development plan and calendar.
Well, for me, I start at the beginning. I tend to look at the key metrics and how past Return on Investment (ROI) has been for each fundraising activity including events, appeals, major gifts, etc., etc., etc. By looking at ROI, you will determine whether or not a particular activity is effective or not. It prevents that “well we have always done it this way” or “we hold this event every year, so we can’t stop it now.” It allows you to keep the proverbial “winners” while deciding to eliminate those activities that are not as effective or are not meeting best practices.
I should add a disclaimer before I go on that – not all activities have a sole purpose of raising money! So, specific metrics would need to be developed for those particular activities.
So what are some of those key metrics and how do you calculate them?
I start by gathering:
# of pieces – # of pieces mailed to select group of the database or number of direct requests
# of gifts – # of gifts received by mailing or number of donors responding with gifts
Gross income – Income without expenses calculated or values of gifts and contributions received
Expenses – expenses of mailing including copywriting, design, mailing services and postage or amount of fundraising budget spent
Then I calculate:
Net income – Expenses minus gross income
Participation rate – # of participants divided by total solicitations
Average gift – Divide revenue received by participants
Average cost per gift – Divide expenses by participants
Cost of fundraising – Expenses divided by revenue
Net ROI – Net income divided by expenses; multiplied by 100 for percentage rate of return
I put this all in a spreadsheet document with like appeals spanning a number of years together i.e. Spring Appeal 2012, 2013, 2014, 2105, etc. So that ROI comparisons can be easily made. If you would like a sample copy of this Appeal Comparison spreadsheet to use for your purposes, email me here!
Then from there, I evaluate all of this data against Industry Best Practices in terms of Solicitation Activity Reasonable Cost Guidelines as found below.
Solicitation Activity Reasonable Cost Guidelines
Direct mail (acquisition) $1.00 to $1.25 per $1.00 raised Direct mail (renewal) $0.20 to $0.25 per $1.00 raised Special events $0.50 per $1.00 raised Volunteer-led personal solicitation $0.10 to $0.20 per $1.00 raised Corporation and Foundation Grants $0.20 per $1.00 raised Capital campaigns/ Major Gifts $0.05 to $0.10 per $1.00 raised Planned Giving $0.20 to $0.30 per $1.00 raised
If an activity meets the Reasonable Cost Guidelines then it is a keeper, if not, then it is time to evaluate why. Don’t throw an activity out solely on not meeting these guidelines, especially if you have other “goals” in mind for the particular strategy, but do be conscious of this in your planning process.
Just this week, I was working with a client, and we were discussing Board member engagement in fund development. The assumption was, ho hum, “they just won’t participate.” It was then that I came across a blog article outlining all of the wonderful ways that you can engage your Board in fundraising. You know things like, make thank you calls, write notecards, etc., etc., etc.
To be honest, we have heard these over and over again. The reality is that even though you can talk about all the different ways that Board members can participate in the process of raising philanthropic dollars, it still doesn’t cause engagement.
So, my client and I stepped back and bit and talked about how some successful organizations ARE engaging their Boards in fundraising. And, what we noticed is that with very successful organizations, it all begins with how you recruit, screen, and bring on new Board members to your organization. And, here based on that evaluation are some simple steps that you can take to revolutionize your Board engagement.
Here is what I recommend:
As a fundraiser, become a member of the Board nominating or preferably governance committee, if not already a member. And, as an executive, advocate for your fundraiser’s participation on this important committee. It all starts here.
Develop a formally written and adopted Board recruitment process and procedure.
One you have identified an appropriate Board member candidate, schedule a screening interview. (Yes, a screening interview! Why would you not screen for one of the most important jobs in your organization?)
Send the prospective candidate information in advance i.e. things like your brochure, a list of volunteer opportunities, committee listings, relevant Board policies, etc., etc.
At the interview, first, review the process and purpose of the meeting i.e. “getting-to-know” each other interview.
Then review with the candidate the organization’s values, mission, and services seeking alignment. If the candidate does not align with those core elements of your organization’s identity that is a “red flag.”
Share with the candidate the major issues facing the organization both opportunities and challenges.
Share with the candidate the different ways that the organization uses volunteers i.e. committees, policies, meeting schedule, etc., etc.
Review skills, experiences, diversity, and network needs that the organization has identified. Discuss with the candidate which of these they desire using on behalf of the organization. Seek alignment.
Review Board member responsibilities and expectation, particularly around fund development seeking commitment to them
Close the meeting but don’t make any decisions yet.
Bring all of this information back to the nominating/governance committee to discuss and make recommendations. Remember the fundraiser must sit on this committee.
Once the candidate is voted on and accepted, bring them on and into an orientation process reviewing the organization’s values, mission, services, and goals. At this time, provide training on a “Culture of Philanthropy” and further reiterate the Board expectations around engagement in development.
Have all Board members sign a Board Member Contract agreeing to uphold this commitment regarding responsibilities and expectation and develop a Board Fund Development Expectation Form that the Board member must sign and date indicating how exactly what they explicitly commit to upholding. Email me for a sample Board Fund Development Expectation Form.
Board Chair reviews Board member’s performance throughout the year to ensure performance meets expectations and outlined contract. If the Board member’s performance does not meet expectations, the Board Chair MUST “thank and release” the Board member. Yes, this MUST happen for the whole process to maintain its credence. You must “thank and attrition” poor performers.
The key to Board engagement is truly about setting and managing Board member’s expectations BEFORE they even join your Board of Directors. This way, they know right up front what is expected of them as they perform their role. What I often hear from client’s Board members, is that “I had no idea that was what I was supposed to be doing.” So, out of fear of the unknown, Board members are hesitant about ever committing to fund development because the importance has never been relayed to them, training never provided, and the expectations never set.
So, while all these great articles can espouse how to engage your Board members in making telephone calls and writing note cards, you can’t even hope for them to begin to participate in your fundraising efforts if they are unsure of what you expect from them. This engagement all starts before they officially come onboard.
Follow the above recommended “How To’s” and watch your Board member engagement in fundraising and your organization soar!
So, maybe you have been operating without a plan up until now. And, that is ok, but it is not strategic, and to meet your goals, you need to have a plan that you follow, monitor, and correct if needed.
Here are some simple instructions on how you can quickly create a development plan if you have been operating without one.
Once you have your gift chart created, it will guide your strategies. Take that gift table and think about how you are going to raise your top gifts.
Then break out all the possible fundraising strategies into key categories. Those key categories may be major donors, individual donors, Board giving, special events, corporation and businesses, private grants, government grants, and earned revenue.
Plan on how many you are going to solicit from each category and how i.e. individual donors you may send out a lapsed donor appeal, an annual renewal appeal, and perhaps a prospective donors appeal using direct mail appeal and maybe phone follow-up. Your complete mail out will be close to 1,000. You can even go a step further and calculate the average gift amount if you are able.
From the numbers that you will be soliciting and the calculated average gift amount determine what your estimated income will be. Know or have any expenses, calculate those and subtract them from your expected income, and you have a net income number.
Then the last key element of this plan is to determine when you will complete each strategy by and who is responsible for the strategy i.e. development staff, executive direct, Board of Directors, etc.
Then implement your plan. But, most importantly use this plan as a monthly monitoring tool. Share it at your Management Staff meetings and with your Development Committee or the Board of Directors. If it appears as if you are “off” on projections, make mid-course corrections and adjust your budget.
But, don’t let this sit on a shelf. Get it in action.
You may want to consider putting all of the key plan information in a spreadsheet to have it all in one place. Or you can use a Word document table. Whatever format you use, start with the gift table, develop the plan, keep this plan in a prominent place, share it and monitor it, and make mid-course corrections.
You can’t operate successfully without a plan in place to drive and focus your effort
Then you will be on your way to reaching your yearly fundraising goals.
One may think that there are only a limited number of donors to go around, but think again.
In my work, I assist small to mid-sized organizations in running their first capital campaigns. Many do not have established donor bases to tap into for an already existing pool of major donors. So, I assist. And, I am here to say that yes, you too can, even in your small nonprofit, develop a list of 25 or more possible major donors to your organization.
I am going to take you step by step on how to begin establishing that prospect list for your nonprofit organization and then share with you some next steps on how to prioritize that list.
Here are the steps you can take to develop your prospect master list:
Use informal organizational networks including organizational friends and family members i.e. Board members, staff, volunteers, etc. to identify prospects within their respective networks who have both wealth and affinity for the cause.
Ask your current donors when meeting with them if they know of anyone else who may support the cause.
Research prominent donors to other similar organizations who may be making small gifts to your organizations. It is helpful to obtain copies of their annual reports, newsletters, and even event programs to see the giving levels of the prospective donors. Annual reports may be found online or hard copy by request.
Research who has been attending your events. There are folks here who already know of your mission and may be willing to deepen their relationship with you.
Research others who live in your community who might give to you using voter, property (Grand), the local chamber of commerce, houses of worship, and other lists.
So now what do you do when you have all this information?
Here is what I recommend:
Cull through all these lists to create a Master List of prospects whom you think “make the cut” regarding any possibility of capacity, affinity, or connection.r
Let me define these for you.
Capacity – ability to give
Affinity – philanthropic to a similar cause or interest
Connection – involvement in your organization
Once you have this Master List developed then work with the fundraising/development committee, Board of Directors, or other volunteers (they should know folks in the community) to rate and rank each donor during a rating session to determine potential giving capacity, interest, and affinity.
And, from there you have a Master List of the top 20-25 prospective donors to your organization. Even the smallest of non-profit organizations should be able to come up with a Master List of at least 25 potential donors after following these steps.
One might think that gift range charts are just for large projects such as capital campaigns or for significant fundraising efforts. And, while, yes, there is some truth to that, gift range charts can be used effectively in even the smallest of fundraising shops.
A gift range chart will tell you exactly how many gifts AND prospects you need at each giving level to reach your goal. And, it also shows you the potential to reach your fundraising goal.
So, first, how do you create one?
Well, you can use any online calculator to do so. I highly recommend the simple and easy to use Blackbaud gift range calculator. You can find that tool here.
A gift range chart calculator is only going to provide you with an estimate. If you want to be more accurate, you may want to create the chart on your own using the given realities of your organization. So, how do you go about creating your own? Well, you will want to identify the highest level gift to your fundraising efforts. That will probably be somewhere in the area of 20% of goal. Estimate 3-5 prospective donors per gift. Fill in your chart downwards based on what you know about your donors and their capacity. Gift amounts go down, and the number of donors increases.
So, here is what a $100,000 fundraising goal would look like: https://www.blackbaud.com/nonprofit-resources/gift-range-calculator
How do you now use this information to inform your strategy?
I would first look at the top gifts needed. Here in this example, you would need 1 – $10K, 1 – 7.5K, 2 – $5K, and 3 – $3.5K for a total of $38K. There are several options, right? You could write several grants. In this case, you would need 28 grant possibilities, or you could approach a few major donors.
Then if you look at your next tier of gifts, you would need $34K in gifts. Perhaps you have a fundraising event, or maybe a direct mail campaign or a series of direct mail campaigns. Or perhaps you continue to ask for gifts at this level.
Maybe you look even further down and realize that you have a series of direct mail appeals, or that one appeal will do it for the remainder of the $28K or so.
The fact of the matter is that any possibility of a strategy will work, as long as it is realistic and fits for your organization. The key thing to remember is that you want to secure the top gifts first. If you don’t raise those, then you need to readjust all the lower levels of the gift range chart below to “make up” for the difference.
Then, you can use this gift range chart as a monitoring and reporting tool. Let’s say that you are not hitting your “lead” gift targets. Well, you can certainly adjust this gift range chart mid-course and make the necessary adjustments to your strategy BEFORE your fundraising efforts get too far off track. And, this would be a great tool to share with your Board of Directors to educate them on the process of raising money and how your particular efforts are progressing towards projections.
So, though you may think that gift range charts are for the “big shops,” think again, a gift range chart can provide even the smallest campaign with focus and goals based on actualities and realities.
So, this next fiscal year why don’t you first start by creating a realistic gift range chart for your annual fund campaign and develop strategies to get you to your goal.
As a nonprofit organization, you are here to meet a mission to your stakeholders. Maybe long ago, or not so long ago, you were founded to assist a particular group or meet a critical need. And, months go by, years go by, and you are still in existence. But, is the need still there? Are you still relevant towards meeting that need?
Sometimes, we just don’t want to answer this question. Because in answering it, you may find, that yes, indeed, you have met your mission or, in fact, are no longer relevant, or facing a crisis, or maybe even just plain exhausted and lack energy as an organization.
Is it time to dissolve perhaps? Maybe merge with a similar group? Shutting down is not the only option, but it is one.
Let’s face it, was it ever our intent to be here forever?
In admitting that you have met your mission, you have done exactly what you have set out to do. And, more and more nonprofits are choosing this route, admirably I may add.
Ultimately, though, this is a larger Board discussion.
Because the Board of Directors is directly responsible for the organization’s future: whether to grow, change, downsize, merge, evolve, or close. This is governance at its most important and highest level.
Here are some important questions to explore as a Board before you do:
Are we meeting our stated mission?
Are we helping our intended audience?
Are we still relevant to our community?
What is the situation that is precipitating this discussion? Are we tired, lack energy? Financial constraints? No longer needed?
What would be the implications if we did no longer exist?
Do we want to continue? Can the organization be saved?
Have we simply run out of steam and need to close down?
Is it time to let us fail instead of always trying to “right” the ship?
Do we have adequate human resources to keep things going and are they the right people?
After seriously reflecting on these questions, a nonprofit Board can choose to take several routes.
You can choose to change your mission statement to reflect who you are and what need you are truly meeting.
You can choose to restructure your operations, programs, and activities to lead to a better functioning organization.
You can find a similar nonprofit organization in mission and merge.
If under undue financial stress, you may consider filing for bankruptcy
Or, if you are just tired or having met your mission, you can cease to operate and dissolve.
Ultimately, the Board must recognize that a crisis situation exists, focus efforts on addressing this issue, and come to a consensus-based conclusion on which path is most appropriate to your mission, to the community you serve, and to yourselves as individual Board members.