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Avoid Mission Drift January 3, 2012

Filed under: accountability,strategic fundraising — fundtimes @ 2:12 pm

Congratulations!  You’ve made it to another fiscal year.  Not only is this good news for your staff (employment is the new black), but it looks like your organization will continue meeting the needs of its constituency.  While most of your fundraising tactics should be guided by your fundraising plan, you will undoubtedly come across an interesting Request for Proposal (RFP).  This RFP may have you running down the hallways screaming, “Hey, our organization could totally do that this year!”.  But before you get too excited, consider if this opportunity jibes with your mission statement.

A mission statement clearly articulates the reason why your organization exists.  It also describes the population you serve as well as the strategies your staff undertake to meet the needs of your constituency.  Your mission statement is incredibly useful in not only guiding your programs and activities, but it should be used to help you and your staff screen which funding opportunities you’ll pursue during the year.

So, how do you do this?  Below are a few strategies to guide you in deciding which funding opportunities merit your application time:

  • Know Your Mission Statement. Do you find your eyes wandering into space when tasked with saying your nonprofit’s mission statement?  If so, you’re not alone. In my experience, I’ve worked for a number of nonprofits where staff was hard-pressed to repeat the mission statement on cue.  Beyond being incredibly embarrassing, not knowing your mission can translate into hours of wasted time pursuing funding opportunities that have nothing to do with your nonprofit’s purpose.  The end result?  Rejection letter after rejection letter from funders piling in your inbox.  The solution?  Memorize your mission statement.  As I used to hear on Saturday morning cartoons when the word of the day was announced: “Use it. Say It. Wear it Out.”
  • Add Value.  Once you’ve become reacquainted with your mission statement, you’re now ready to pop your monocle in and scrutinize every RFP that crosses your desk.  If awarded, will the RFP allow your organization to serve more people?  Will it help your organization streamline internal processes?  If the answer to either of these questions is a resounding ‘yes’, then the RFP is likely a good bet.  If the RFP is aligned with your mission but best suited for an organization twice your size, then you may need to hold off on applying this time around.
  • Join Forces.  You may be reading this and thinking, “But, Tamar.  You really think our nonprofit shouldn’t pursue a funding opportunity simply because we don’t have the staffing to do so?”.  This is most certainly the case if your nonprofit typically works alone.  However, if you occasionally partner with other nonprofits whose work is similar to yours, then it might be worth it to collaborate on a funding opportunity.  This usually means that one nonprofit applies as the fiscal agent and then distributes the funding to other partners, according to mutually agreed-upon terms.  With the strong emphasis on nonprofit collaboration in the foundation world, this option will undoubtedly prove beneficial to all involved.

Now it’s your turn.  Do you have any other ideas of how to stay on mission this year?

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