Ever sailed a boat? There’s nothing like the feeling of catching the wind just right. Some days, the wind is perfect – enabling you to get where you want to go with little effort. Other times, it’s blowing in the wrong direction or is weak and erratic.
Fundraising is a lot like sailing. As a nonprofit leader, you know where you want to take the organization, but potential funders are rarely aligned in the ideal direction.
But an experienced sailor knows how to trim the sail just right to get where she wants to go in any wind condition. Sometimes the wind requires that you “tack” from left to right in order to move forward. Other times, it provides an exhilarating ride in a slightly different direction, and a slower, steady trek to return to the intended destination. It might take a little longer than expected, but the skilled sailor can still reach his goal and have some fun along the way.
When faced with adverse wind conditions, a sailor has at least three choices:
- Quit and come back when conditions are better.
- Ignore the conditions and hold rigidly to methods that worked when the wind was perfect.
- Use ingenuity, skill and experience to adapt the strategy and use the wind most advantageously.
Here are some ways I’ve seen leaders adapt:
- An organization focused on youth development initially thinks about a tutoring program, but finds they can also qualify for arts funding if they incorporate elements of Hip Hop dance and Spoken Word poetry.
- A church wants to reach neighborhood children and learns that parents can’t get their kids on a soccer team, so they build a field and convert “Sunday School” into an evening soccer league.
- An economic development organization expands in the area of clean energy to align with trends in the funding communities.
A word of caution: Some take this concept too far, and manipulate their programs to “follow the money.” Like the sailor, the leaders above knew where they wanted to take the organization, and did not compromise their mission or vision. Strategic planning must always precede fundraising.
So what’s it gonna be? Quit and come back when the funding opportunities are more to your liking? Continue using methods that worked well in better conditions? Or use your ingenuity, skill and experience to capture the resources needed to propel your organization forward. You can’t control the flow of resources, but you can trim your sail to best use the prevailing conditions. Oh…and be careful where you spit!
What About You?
- Do you know of other examples of leaders who have achieved goals by adapting their strategy to capture funding?
- What are some alternative sources of funding that you could harness by adapting your strategy while staying true to your mission?
- Are there non-traditional collaborations you could pursue to expand your support base?
At ENTERCHANGE, we know how to navigate in all conditions. Contact Us to explore how we can help you anticipate the changing forecast, and capture the resources necessary to propel your organization forward.
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