Thursday, 24 May 2012

Important Stuff Every Organisation Should Think About

Important Stuff Every Organisation Should Think About

Just a small subject then.  Actually, I phrased that badly.  This post isn't about important stuff every organisation should think about, it's about important questions every organisation should ask itself.  Regularly.  

The first is this: what's happening all around you? 

The second is this: what's coming next?



I've been lucky enough to work in an organisation which was in the habit of questioning itself, monitoring its success - and failure, horizon scanning and innovating.  It had a big vision for itself and big ambitions, but it brought them back to what was achievable in the next year, the next six months.  Everyone had a role to play.  Everyone understood that role. 

Cool beans.  

That was a voluntary sector organisation and one which did not accept government funding.  Its financial planning needed to be robust and it needed to be accurate.  It needed to have a mix of income streams to ensure its financial stability. 

But don't we all?

I've talked before about why fundraising is important.  But let's not stop there.  What if fundraising disappears?  What if - for example - you're reliant on direct marketing and postage cost go up (whoops, they just have)? What if you're reliant on major gifts and gift aid disappears (check out the Give it Back George campaign)?

Let's say you're a department in a university with a great track record in research.  Let's say you've benefited from sizeable research council grants and capital funding.  Let's say there's an economic crisis.  Word to the wise - funders help those who help themselves.  If you show initiative, if you build private partnerships and pool resources your chance of winning that scarce public funding shoots up exponentially.  

Philanthropy may seem a tiny little bean in comparison to a huge research council grant, but from that private funding you can climb the beanstalk to find that golden goose.  No bean, no stalk, no goose.

Let's say you're a charity acquiring most of its supporters from on street fundraising (chuggers).  Let's say the streets are suddenly full of chuggers.  Let's say that your competitors chuggers are doing better than yours.  What do you do?

Wait until you're in financial crisis to innovate and the chances of succeeding are minimal.  Would you give your money to a charity which might fold in six months?  Or would you rather give it to a charity which will grow, invest and continue its work? 

You'll get desperate and you'll do silly things.  You'll throw all your money at a major gifts fundraiser in the hope they will wave the magic fairy wand of wealth and half a million will drop from the sky in six months.  Maybe that will happen.  And maybe you will win the lottery.  Major gifts will take a couple of years to become truly profitable.

So don't wait until you're desperate.  Ask yourself these questions now and ask them again in 6 months time, in a year, 6 months after that. 

Ask yourself whether you're losing or gaining market share


Ask yourself if you're in a position to diversify and innovate, with the understanding it might take months if not years for your investment to pay off. 

Ask yourself "what's on the horizon?"  What's coming in from left field?  What's right under your nose?

Changes in government funding?  A squeeze on the private sector?  A growing trend towards social entrepreneurism or venture philanthropy?

Don't bury your head in the sand.  Be a good friend to your organisation.  Ask questions now, not before its too late. 

 

Margaret

@collectivemarg

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