The First Pillar of Organizational Vitality

As we discussed recently, Capacity Partners has developed a revolutionary program called Organizational Vitality© that can transform your organization.

Organizational Vitality© is the heart of what makes a nonprofit resilient, successful, and beloved. Organizational Vitality is why some nonprofits are superlative in nearly every facet – program, mission, leadership, recognition, and planning. A lack of Organizational Vitality is the reason so many nonprofits struggle with issues they can’t identify, difficulties which prevent them from fulfilling their grand potential.

There are four pillars of Organizational Vitality: vision, goals, leadership, and engagement. Today we’ll focus on vision.

Vision, quite simply, is what inspires people. It is movement and change wrapped up in a single essential sentence. A well-articulated vision is a proven way to engage your stakeholders and steer your mission.

While your mission is pragmatic, an aspirational vision ought to be ambitious and rousing. Let’s say you are part of a nonprofit that feeds low-income people. Your mission might be “to provide nutritious food to people in need in the DC metro area.” Your vision, however, could be “to eliminate hunger in the DC metro area.”

A nonprofit with Organizational Vitality possess both an aspirational vision and a strategic vision that describes where they want to be in three to five years. For example, “to enable 50% of the people we currently serve to become economically stable and no longer need food assistance” might be the organization’s strategic vision. Easily-understood aspirational and strategic visions are one of the keys to being an effective, successful nonprofit organization.

Weaving through every action, every staffer, and every volunteer, vision is both the foundation for a nonprofit and the great change the organization wants to create in the world. An organization with vitality has a vision that is both the beginning and the end and acts as a guiding principle for the nonprofit.

Would you like to learn more about crafting an inspiring vision and becoming a nonprofit with Organizational Vitality©? Contact Mary Robinson, President and Founder of Capacity Partners, at mary@capacitypartners.com today.


Organizational Vitality – The Heart of Nonprofit Success

For thirty years, the talented team at Capacity Partners has consulted with a variety of nonprofit organizations – large and tiny, emerging and established, effective and struggling. We’ve worked with organizations in every sector, including human services, education, advocacy, arts, environmental, health, and international causes.

We recently asked ourselves, what makes one organization successful and another less so? On paper, most organizations have the elements that should cause them to be effective. People, programs, systems, marketing and communication, fundraising, finances, and culture are the foundations of every nonprofit. Yet we all know only a few nonprofits that possess that undefinable “it” factor that makes them not just good, but great. We admire those rare, astonishingly effective nonprofits which seem to easily and consistently fulfill their missions. They have happy staff and dynamic leadership and are revered as top-tier, leadership organizations.

After hours of conversations and even more hours spent pondering the nonprofit “it” factor, we realized we could actually define the undefinable. We discovered that the difference between nonprofits that survive and those that thrive is what we call Organizational Vitality.

Organizational Vitality is the heart of what makes a nonprofit organization resilient, successful, and beloved. Organizational Vitality is why some nonprofit organizations are superlative in nearly every facet – program, mission, leadership, recognition, and planning. A lack of Organizational Vitality is the reason so many nonprofit organizations struggle with issues they can’t identify, difficulties which prevent nonprofits from fulfilling their grand potential.

Drilling deeper into the concept of Organizational Vitality, we have created an entirely unique way to view and assist nonprofit organizations. During a recent seminar, we taught Organizational Vitality to a variety of nonprofits, and both the organizations and Capacity Partners were struck by how quickly the theory of Organizational Vitality resonated with the seminar participants.


Making the Ask: Keeping the Door Open - Part Three

In my two previous blog posts about Making the Ask, I’ve discussed the importance of asking the right person at the right time and finding the sweet spot. In this final post based on a presentation made by Michelle Keegan, Chief Development Officer, CSIS, and I at the Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference, I want to give you some tips on how to keep the door open.

1) Plant a seed and give it time to grow in your prospect’s thinking. Your pitch should include some unforgettable nuggets that your prospect can ponder after your conversation ends.

2) Remember that if your potential donor cares enough to talk to you, he or she will want to find a way to help you. It just may be that your prospect will choose to help you later rather than now.

3) Turn a “no” or less than optimal gift into a promise of a future conversation. There will be opportunities to talk to your prospect another time, and this current ask is the right time to encourage your potential donor to commit to that future conversation.

4) Thank your prospect in a way that is meaningful to him or her. For some, a heartfelt email is perfect. For others, you ought to handwrite a lovely thank you note. Still others would prefer a small token of appreciation, perhaps some swag with your logo. If you don’t know how your prospect would like to be thanked, you may not know your prospect well enough to make the ask.

I hope this short series of tips for making your next ask a success will make your next ask a home run. If you or your organization wants more assistance with strategic development, please don’t hesitate to contact Capacity Partners at mary@capacitypartners.com.


Find the Sweet Spot - Part Two

Every fundraiser – volunteer or staff – must eventually ask for the gift. This short series of posts based on a presentation given by Michelle Keegan and me at the 9th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference will help you find the sweet spot for your ask.

Last week we discussed the importance of asking the right person at the right time in the right place for the right amount. Today’s blog focuses on some of the essential intangibles of making the ask.

1) Remember to listen! Listening is the central tool in your tool box, even more important that the stellar pitch you’ve practiced a dozen times. Figure out what your prospect is really saying and shift your approach based on what you learn. Ask questions that will lead your prospect to articulate their commitment to your organization.

2) Explore both the feelings and thoughts behind their giving. Why do they make charitable donations? What compels them to consider contributing to your organization? Bear in mind that emotions are often more influential than logic.

3) Learn what giving will do for them – not just what it will do for your organization. As much as your potential donor may care about your nonprofit’s mission, your prospect, like most every human, in just as interested in what contributing will do for him or her. Will giving make your prospect feel like a hero or impress his peers? What tax benefits will accrue to the donor when she contributes?

4) Link your prospect’s passion to your vision and impact. For example, if your donor wants to help children break the cycle of poverty, be sure to talk about how your organization does exactly that.

Keep an eye out for Part Three in which I’ll discuss how to keep the door open.


Making the Ask: Tips for Success - Part One

I was honored to speak along with Michelle Keegan, Chief Development Officer, CSIS, at the 9th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference about Making the Ask: Tips for Success. The impressive display of nonprofit talent at Gaylord National Hotel reminded me of how much I enjoy collaborating with nonprofit leaders.

If you were unable to attend the Bridge Conference, over the next couple of weeks I’ll post some of our most important advice from the interactive presentation Michelle and I gave at the conference. If you would like more detailed information, please don’t hesitate to contact me at mary@capacitypartners.com or Michelle at mkeegan@csis.org.

Think back to a time when you were told “no” by a prospect. Was it perhaps because you asked the wrong person for the wrong amount? Maybe the wrong person had the conversation with your donor? It is critical that the right person ask at the right time in the right place for the right amount.

Remember:

  • The right person is the one your prospect cannot say no to. Is that you? A board member? A volunteer? A special event committee member?
  • The right time is one that makes sense for your donor’s financial situation and readiness to hear what you say. The right time isn’t based on when your organization needs the money; it’s based on when your donor is ready to give the money.
  • The right place is where your prospect will be most comfortable having this conversation. This may not be what’s most convenient for you, but it’s essential that your meeting place is one where your donor can relax and feel at ease.
  • The right amount is one that is at the top of your prospect’s potential yet balanced by their passion and commitment toward your mission, relationship with your leaders, and involvement with your organization. It’s as critical not to under-ask as it is to over-ask. For one prospect, $10,000 is too much while $10,000 is far too little for another. Know your prospect’s level of commitment and involvement with your organization as well as his/her financial situation to reach the ideal amount of your ask.

Keep an eye out for Part Two in which I’ll discuss how to find your prospect’s sweet spot


5 More Tips for Running Efficient Board Meetings

The best board meetings engage board members, allowing for robust discussion and decisive action.

In a recent blog post, I shared five tips for improving your board meetings. Here are five more ways to make meetings efficient and effective.

1. Write an anticipated action for each agenda item.

This helps board members know what is expected for each agenda item so they can be better engaged and prepared. For example, “Investment Committee Report – Q & A, no action needed” or “Governance Committee Report – approve new committee charters.”

2. Include at least one of the most important issues facing the organization on the agenda.

What major issues is your organization facing? (e.g., economic downturn, funding, demographic changes, competitors?) Be sure to structure your agenda to include time to discuss one of these issues at each meeting.

3. Develop a culture of respectful dissent and authentic disagreements.

Find opportunities to promote this culture at each meeting by recognizing those board members who provide a different view. For example: “Roger, I appreciate that you disagreed with my opinion in the last discussion. Your perspective made the discussion much more valuable.”

4. Begin on time and finish on time.

Board members are busy people and you want to respect everyone’s time. Set the standard that the meetings start on time. If you are running late with the agenda, you can ask if everyone is able to stay an extra 15 minutes. If everyone agrees then extend; if not, move the most critical agenda items up on the agenda to be sure they are covered.

5. Encourage everyone to contribute at each meeting.

This is the responsibility of the board chair, but all board members can help. If someone is being quiet, you might ask a question, such as “Melissa, we haven’t heard form you on this issue, do you have anything to add to the discussion?” or “Steve, you made some great points at our last meeting about the strategic plan. Is there anything we are overlooking from a strategic standpoint in this discussion?

I know that these five tips – along with the first five – will help you improve your board meetings.

Do you have other tips for running efficient, effective board meetings? Share your thoughts in the comments!