We have worked recently with several organizations to facilitate a strategic planning process. Repeatedly we heard that this “was creating our road map for the future”. Well that is a good analogy, but I think it is a bit outdated. Think about that road map…when you unfolded it you had to hunt for what you are looking for. For example, Spokane was H12 in the key, so you follow the horizontal line H to intersect with the vertical line 12 and when your fingers met that was the spot you where looking for. Complicated I know and so are many strategic plans. We think it should be a bit easier. A good planning process blends external and internal input with a view of future progress. Those should intersect with a plan of how to get there. We like to think that your planning process is more like creating a navigation system with a re-route feature. The result should be a clear, concise and easy to articulate vision of where your organization is planning to go and how the world will benefit when you arrive, complete with a periodic review of the plan to determine if corrections need to be made. So, what is your experience?
The crew of the SS Minnow was shipwrecked. Lost. Detached from the rest of civilization. Remember how that detachment resulted in some amazing inventions? Being a bit detached might not be a bad thing. When you read and hear about Wall Street there is a lot of economic turmoil and government intervention. Meanwhile the nonprofit sector continues to work hard to meet needs of those it serves, almost able to ignore the world around it…BECAUSE IT HAS TO! We don’t get a reprive, a financial mulligan…we continue to put our head down and churn it out…like we are unaware of the outside world, like we are shipwrecked, disconnected. You know, there might be something to that. Keep up your great work and don’t send out an S.O.S. Civilization might not be that much fun.
Overhead costs and cost to raise a dollar are interesting numbers, but they do not tell us enough. Sure there are thousands of bogus charities. There are even more that are just plain poorly run. To be fair they certainly make it hard for donors to make good decisions in making gifts. However, I know of many nonprofits that have high overhead costs that are worth supporting! Sometimes expanding programs can cause an increase in overhead so as a singular measure it is not enough. I know of many organizations that have a high cost to raise a dollar because they are starting a fundraising program and as a result the costs are staggeringly off kilter. Folks we all missed the boat…we need to be stronger messengers of the sector! It cost money to employ people to deliver programs and it costs money to raise money. We need to be efficent and effective and shout out that sometimes that does not result in the most attractive math. Shout today, tomorrow and everyday. And be proud you are changing lives….