Thursday, May 28, 2015

Is your organization numb or nimble?

One of the things I find interesting is how unable many nonprofits are to adapt to immediate needs and change. Is your organization nimble enough to be sensitive?
I'll give you a recent example. Lately the weather in Texas has been awful and the loss of life and property tragic. As you begin to prepare your end of fiscal year appeals, are you still soliciting folks in the Area affected? Or is it "too late" to stop the presses? Imagine receiving a solicitation when cleaning the muck out of your home.

Being sensitive to your donors is not just smart, it's a necessity. I remember twice in my life being directly affected by natural disasters, in 2004 with Hurricane Charlie and then again in 2011 with Superstorm Sandy. Both times I distinctly remember receiving phone call solicitations and mail in my mailbox asking me for money. I was offended and hurt. How could they not be aware? Was CNN not on their cable packages?

I also remember both times my alma mater, South Carolina reaching out to me to ask if I was ok and if there was any way they could help. Classy move that bolstered my loyalty.
I often say when talking to nonprofit fundraising professionals that it's not about what you say but what you do. How do you rise to the occasion? How does your organization show that it isn't numb to those in need?

What keeps us as organizations from being nimble? One of the factors definitely relates to protecting the "brand" and receiving approvals or decisions by committee for everything we do. I'm a leader in the beg forgiveness not ask permission movement, as I have found that to truly affect change you have to at times make mistakes and also make people uncomfortable in order to advance the cause. When is the right thing to do in direct conflict with the politically correct thing to do? Are they one in the same? I don't always believe so. The lack of adaptation causes us to build on aged practices and to live in a world of having always done it that way. This explains why in 2015 there are organizations that still haven't sent a fundraising email to date. Sigh.

The same holds true in the other circumstance. How are you demonstrating that your organization is nimble and able to rise to the occasion of unusual need? Do you have to jump through 84 hoops and receive sign offs from multiple sources in order to produce a last minute appeal? This could be holding you back from seizing an opportune moment. While you are seeking approval and permissions, others are capitalizing on your missed opportunity.

This is something to think about at all times. Do you have a plan in place for these situations? Planning is essential for your success.

Tell me in the comments how you remain nimble and not numb.

1 comment:

  1. This couldn't have come in a more timely manner! I started calling our Houston area constituents to make sure they were ok. Watching the news last night I wondered if any of our donors were in the area and decided to reach out and call today. Thankfully none were affected that I could reach. Shame on me for not thinking about pulling their solicitations!

    As far as other ways we are nible... We had a donor that contributed a signification for a renovation project on campus. I knew they were probably not going to be able to come back to campus to be able to see the progress (or the finished project) due to their age and mobility so I decided to have the project photo documented and I will present her with a photo book of the project. Her gift officer assured me she would love this idea. Nimble is definitely having norms but adapting to different situations.

    Thank you Lynne! I am so grateful for your wisdom and ideas!