Sunday, December 28, 2008

10 New Year Resolutions for Non Profits and Cause-Related Organizations

This time of year it is not uncommon to write down resolutions for the next year – things that we might do better, do differently, or just plain do. As you consider your organization, whether it be a non-profit, cause-related community, or a for-profit company with a socially responsible initiative, here are 10 resolutions to consider making as you head into 2009. They’re in no particular order, number ten isn’t the least and one isn’t the most important. But all will add to your ability to make a significant difference in the important work you do.

[NOTE: If your organization excels at any one of these let me know. I'd be happy to highlight your work in an upcoming blog.]

  1. Competitively define your mission.
    Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead said it best, “You don’t want to be considered the best at what you do. You want to be the only ones doing what you’re doing.” How is what you do unique, special, and essential. If there are too many providers of the same thing, people will see most of them as unnecessary. What is it that only your organization does? What will the one big thing that your organization will do in 2009 that sets you apart as different from all the other causes?

  2. Showcase your success stories, not just your needs.
    Consumers expect that non profits have needs and that cause-related organizations are usually scarce on resources. It’s okay to ask for things, but make sure that you also showcase your successes. What is the outcome of the work you do? What is the outcome of that? Sure you may serve meals to homeless, provide medication to the poor, or even find childcare for single parents who need to work. But what happened because you did all those things? Showcase the outcome of your work – what happened because you did all those things you do – and give consumers a bigger picture of your organization’s performance.

  3. Create single-shot service opportunities.
    According to ASAE, Americans devote more than 173 million volunteer hours each year - time valued at more than $2 billion - to charitable and community service projects. But for as much as that amounts to, there are untapped millions of hours still available. Create opportunities for service that don’t require more than an hour, or a particular task. Let people dip their toe in the water before you ask them to dive in to the deep end.

  4. Create ways for your entire community to engage in conversation.
    Technology has changed the way we interact with one another. Twitter grows by an estimated 3-5 thousand new users each day, there are an estimated 70 million blogs, and 8 billion text messages are sent every day. Not participating in this online conversation leaves your organization out in the cold. It’s not so much that you get reporters talking about your organization, you need to get every day people talking about you. Your organization needs to find ways to connect the various constituents with each other – beneficiaries to donors, board to public, staff to public, public to donors, etc. Create ways for conversations to happen and let them happen. No control, no micro managing. Just get people talking and then listen.

  5. Investigate relevancy.
    So much is lost and wasted by well meaning non profits because the person writing the gift request letter didn’t make it relevant to the recipient, or the Web site home page is targeted to the wrong demographic. Make 2009 the year of getting to know your community members inside and out. Research your audiences and write profiles for each group, what makes them tick, what they like, don’t like, what they respond to and why. Find out what’s important to them and validate it. Relevancy drives meaning in communications and credibility in relationships. It also drives response rates to your messages.

  6. Glocalize.
    Boundaries have little meaning anymore. Technology enables connectivity between once-kept-apart groups. Thus, your cause related organization can now operate with a global mindset, tapping into peoples and organizations around the world. But in doing so, as you take your message beyond your borders – whether they be community, city, state or even country -- But in doing so, find ways to translate your messages and outcomes into relevancy. Make your cause real to those new groups by linking it to their world, their community, and their issues.

  7. Fight mediocrity.
    In non-profits it’s easy to get into the mindset that doing well is good enough. That the long hours, the people served, and the low pay should free you from responsibility of any sort of mistakes or poor performance. Jim Collins’ wrote, “Good is the enemy of great.” Make sure in 2009 to raise the standard and strive for being great.

  8. Deepen relationships.
    I wrote in a blog entry earlier this month about the need for non profits to build relationships with people prior to asking for a donation, and this notion ties in to the resolutions for relevance and engaging in conversations. Deepening the relationships with all your constituents is the cornerstone element for increasing your capacity to do the good you do. Your for-profit counterparts collectively spend several billions of dollars each year trying to establish the level of emotional intimacy that your organization could very easily tap in to. This should be such an important part of your efforts, you might even consider adding it to your strategic plan and creating metrics around this initiative.

  9. Build out your infrastructure.
    Lately I’ve come across a few online conversations where contributors have decried the failure of non profits to appropriately build out their technology and operational infrastructures. I strongly believe that given the sparse resources in most organizations available dollars should go to people and not process improvement. But I also believe that with efficiency comes effectiveness. Taking time to build out your infrastructure can pay huge dividends down the road due to decreases in wasted time, increased effectiveness and clarity, and more powerful tools applied to your cause.

  10. Train the next generation.
    Rarely do I find an organization that is working not only to reach current donors and volunteers, but the next one as well. What could happen to stem the desperate needs of the world if important messages and service opportunities were generated and sent down the pipeline to youth and young children? How much more could your organization accomplish in ten, twenty, or thirty years if you worked today to train a new generation of savvy and capable contributors to you cause?

-- David Kinard, PCM


Marc A. Pitman, said...

Great list, David!

John Lawlor said...

David -- I'd like to suggest adding another resolution based on "Train the next generation." which would be:

"Learn from the next generation - they are already living in the social media world that will become the foundation of future fund-raising."

David Kinard, PCM said...

Thanks John -- great suggestion. I agree that we have a lot to learn what those in the next generation (actually going both directions) might want to teach us.

-- David

Gwen said...

Thanks for the list, David.

I, too, would like to add one. It comes from the core of my being, and it's simply, "Listen." Listen to what is going on in the world, to what is going on with volunteers, constituents, donors, everyone. It seems that so many people are talking that no one is listening, and we all benefit from shutting our mouths for a couple of seconds and allowing our ears to work. When our ears are attuned, our hearts sometimes follow, and that's when the real work is done!