Making Money While Making Sense (Oct 06)

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‘Tis the season…although of course, isn’t it always the season for fundraising? But for many of us, a lot of development activity gets bunched up around this time of year so I wish you well. Remember, as the esteemed Kim Klein says, “every ‘no’ brings us closer to a ‘yes’” (although I do admit each “no” still breaks my heart just a little tiny bit).
But our success as organizations is about more than how much cash we can raise and how many assets we can accumulate. In fact I know a few organizations that are swimming in cash but continually have hamster-wheel type retreats about their vision/mission/program thing — people outside snicker about it while inside all remains deadly serious, but rarely is the result of such repetitive ponderings all that impressive.
On the other hand, I am hearing a lot recently about organizations that are doing fairly expeditious financial restructuring based on their clarity on mission matters. What I think is interesting about these deliberations is the analytical sophistication people bring to these sometimes painful discussions and the ease with which they take on considerations about level of effort against payoff for beneficiaries, about niches and coordinating partners and the overall array of services needed — then fitting their plans and financial realities to the mix.
There are always a lot of factors to consider in a financial restructuring — not the least of which is relinquishing beloved things like failing programs — but it appears to me that many are doing less foot dragging around such questions. We would love to hear from you if you have tackled such a restructuring recently — whether or not it was successful — because we’d like to put together a portrait of this kind of activity at every level of the sector. You can write directly to me with a short summary of your organization’s experience (just hit “reply” to this message or send to me at I won’t print what you write but your message will give me a sense of who to call for stories.
Meanwhile, I wanted to share with you one of the articles from the Fall NPQ. It is the latest in a series of articles by Jon Pratt, which help us all think more systematically about our funding source choices. The article, “Financial Independence: Six Approaches” and can be accessed from the link below:
It is good background reading for your board of directors and a nice companion piece to Pratt’s classic article “The Dynamics of Funding: Considering Reliability and Autonomy” available on our website:
And, again, good luck in fundraising but stop to watch a falling leaf or two (if in Minnesota I hear it may be a snowflake today — if in Hawaii, a rolling wave). You get the picture.
p.s. If your board needs a quick picker-upper on the basic tenets of fundraising, we recommend the excellent booklet “How to Succeed in Fundraising by Really Trying” by Lewis Cullman. You can download copies from; hard copies are available for trustees and other groups.