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What Are Your Areas of Improvement?

March 28th, 2012

All nonprofits began doing one or two types of campaign better than others, because historically, it’s where their founders began, and it was the founders’ areas of expertise.  This may be events, grants, direct mail, etc.

As they grew, most organizations honed their skill in their specialty and became even better at raising funds in their particular niche, while typically expanding into one or two other areas over time.  As staff expands, it becomes obvious where the priorities are for the organization by the staffing structure.  Whichever department has the most authority – and people – no doubt has the most history and success, and the greatest priority.

Many development departments have come to learn – particularly after the economic downturn – that too strong a focus on their sole method of raising funds is a poor strategy.  Regardless of what area of development built up the organization, diversification is what helps a nonprofit stay strongest through difficult times.

How would your nonprofit fare if it were to have a significant drop in its main income source?  If this comes from grants, for example, are you prepared to compensate with a few additional email or direct mail campaigns?  What if your signature events have bolstered your coffers for years and you suddenly couldn’t hold a couple of them?  Would you be able to reach your constituents via social media and perhaps conduct an online event instead?

Although substituting new campaigns for ones that have been around for some time won’t likely replace the funds that they raised, they can help toward some compensation while regrouping.  A bigger point, though, is to ask the question of whether or not your organization would even have the means to conduct these other campaigns.

How large is your email list, for example?  How often do you communicate via email?  How many followers do you have on your social media channels, and how frequently do you engage them?  If these programs don’t even exist yet – and on an ongoing basis – then you aren’t in a position to have them even begin to compensate, should another campaign have a problem.

Certainly you should lead with your best foot forward, but the diversified nonprofit is the healthiest one.  It pays to take a critical look at your overall program.  Look for a few crucial key areas that need the most improvement, then see them through! It doesn’t mean that your weakest area(s) have to become your strongest.  Instead, though, change at least one of them for the better.

As you take steps to bolster the lowest earning areas of your campaign, make a point to track your progress as you go.  For example, how has your average gift increased, or your participation rate?  Have you gained in total number of followers, comments or shares/retweets?  Has your klout score improved?  Whatever metrics apply, be certain that you’re measuring your success – and looking for new ways to enhance these “lesser” campaigns, based upon what is working well so far.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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