Strat Plan’s Relationship to Development and Fundraising

by Floyd Rumohr

Why should organizations take resource cultivation cues from overall organizational strategy instead of the other way around? The reason is simple.

If an organization allows the fundraising process to determine the overall strategic direction then it is implicitly suggesting that funders determine the organization’s course.

While funders and other supporters are important stakeholders, handing over the leadership reins can feed a “chasing money” syndrome in which the organization is tempted to do something they wouldn’t normally do because of an RFP or other resource – not good leadership in my view. In this case, the organization might create projects and programs and find itself up an absent resource river when the money dries up and the organization is left trying to sustain something it should never have started. What if, for example, an organization succeeds in obtaining grant money that is antithetical to its core values and loses several key staff members in the process?

It is different if the impulse to begin a new project or program comes from a thoughtful strategic planning process at the organizational level and it sees an opportunity, such as an RFP, and seizes it. In this case, a strategic planning process would identify resources over which development aces could go to work. Funders can and should be involved in those conversations as responsible citizens of the social enterprise.

Nonprofits have an opportunity to lead dialogues that include instructive conversations between funder and nonprofit. It’s a relationship in which some funders don’t know what they don’t know and benefit from thoughtful and discreet teaching and learning about the fields they’re supporting.

The organization is the horse. Not the cart. They need each other to go anywhere but knowing who and what is driving the vision, mission, and everyday operations is essential to identifying, cultivating, and sustaining appropriate resources.

Next up: tips for creating a plan.

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