“It’s Time to Dream Again”

By: Woodburn, Kyle & Company

It doesn’t cost anything to dream or have a dream, but it might cost you if you don’t.  Dreams flow through nonprofits in the form of a vision.  These statements about the future can become the forces for change and motivation or they can become the forgotten efforts of a board retreat.  The economy is improving, so will your nonprofit be ready to realize its vision or be left behind thinking that the economy isn’t quite right for us to move forward just yet?

Is the vision just a sentence of carefully crafted words, or is it something more?  We believe a vision should be absorbed into the culture of any nonprofit.  Today, that might begin with changing the conversation at board meetings to emphasize more talk about the future instead of watching the bottom line, micromanaging or being manipulated by the findings of one more economic report.  The future is scheduled to arrive, so will you be on time?

Your vision statement helps tell the true story of your organization.  It conveys ambition and focus, while establishing an overarching goal for measuring success.  In terms of fundraising, it provides the source of compelling reasons for donors to support your plans and fund your organization’s future.  The vision statement can permeate the theme of your case for support and provide the hook to create excitement, passion and motivation.

One of the best ways to begin the process of change is to determine if your vision statement supports the direction your organization needs to take – now.   If you find your vision of tomorrow has been changed by the experience of the past few years, then update it.  A way to support change is to gather the board together for stimulating discussion about the future of your organization.  A visioning session is an ideal opportunity to identify the thought leaders and those who might have undiscovered skills for leadership.

Another key is to make sure your organizational structure aligns with your vision.  When you have the vision statement you want, test to see if it is compatible with your purpose and mission statements.  These two statements describe what your organization does to achieve the vision.  The goals of your vision should also be present in your strategic plan and its influence contained within the charges of your committees and their objectives.

Once the vision is embedded into the operations of your organization, you can use its theme to support promotion, marketing, branding and fundraising.  Your vision can be present in your organization’s slogan, weaved throughout your case for fundraising support, become part of your “ask” and even be used to develop strategically supportive special events.  Most importantly, it can help to describe the future.  When you are talking with a planned gifts prospect, you will be able to use your thoughts to paint a picture of the future instead of fumbling to find the brush.

One of the most important boosts to fundraising success is the perceived value of a nonprofit.  While a strong development program can be established, fundraising success still depends upon the relevance and the success of a nonprofit’s activities, the credibility of its board, the effectiveness of its administration and the ability to mount an effective marketing effort supporting its brand.  Your strategic plan is the glue that connects the vision for your organization to the activities that enable it to attain its future effectively.

So, if you think that fundraising techniques alone can help you raise significant amounts of money without a dream – your success will be limited.  Presenting the best possible case depends upon demonstrating that philanthropic support will not only fund a new building, better equipment, improved services, or insure financial sustainability, but that the funds can be effectively utilized by the entire organization while it advances towards its vision.

We believe that dreams are worth dreaming, visions are worth creating, and nonprofits can capture the imaginations of donors – if they look to the future.  The future is scheduled to arrive, will you be on time?  It’s time to dream again!

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