Monday, February 12, 2007

Non Profit's Mission Statement, Program/Project Impact, and Your Field's Current Trends

I know; it's a long post title. I don't apologize for it because I love the three critical factors it lists. These are necessary to raise funds today.

As I've written in this blog over and over again in my 'how to do it' posts; clarity and relevence of mission statement, the results of your work in our community, and how up to date and in touch with the latest in your field that your work is - are very important to raising funds. These three non profit qualities are now of utmost importance to one of the United State's largest donors, The Kresge Foundation ( Kresge announced this new grant donating mandate in a February 12, 2007 public announcement.

Kresge's foundation tag line is "stronger non profits, stronger communities". The foundation has existed since 1924 and is now valued at $3 billion. Receiving a Kresge grant is considered, in professional grant writing circles, a litmus test; if you can apply for and receive a grant from the Kresge Foundation - you have passed a test of sorts. The Kresge grant process is detailed, the requirements are strong, and getting a grant is a sign that your organization and your grant writing capabilities are both very good.

If Kresge is focusing on mission, the impact (or results) of your work, and the latest trends in your industry/field; this means that your organization should expect to be responsible for these three attributes more and more when applying for grants in the United States. Kresge is a leader among donors. While not all foundations or grant donors ask for the same things from applicants, some do listen to the larger donors to... find out what is the latest in their field; donating grants. In other words, other foundations are going to require this of us non profits, too, when applying for grants.

Requiring that a non profit's mission statement be strong and clear, that the work you do is effective, and that your work is up to date with the latest thinking is not new. This direction in giving from one of the larger donors in the U.S. solidifies how important it is that a non profit:

1. Truly know what it is they do, why, and for whom. This requires a long group exercise of brainstorming, clarification, looking at the big picture, clarifying again, and stating finally as clearly and succinctly as possible what the mission is of your non profit. If your mission statement is a long rambling paragraph with several sentences; my guess is you have some work to do to clarify and solidify it.

2. Follow through on new programs and projects. If your non profit studies what and where needs related to your mission are, in designing new projects and programs (researching instead of guesstimating) - you're on the right track. The effectiveness of meeting a community need through your agency's work is usualy measured with surveys, feedback, asking what the results were and listening, research, and other methods. If your non profit doesn't determine the results of your work - how do you know that you're meeting your mission statement's goal? Donors don't want to give to a group that means well but is not effective. These kinds of post-program/project studies also allow for your program/project managers to learn and make adjustments to serve your consituency better. Follow up is win win.

3. If your mission statement is strong and clear, and if you study the results of each of your programs and projects - but none of the efforts that your non profit is making are current; then your group may be re-inventing the wheel. No donor wants to fund what has already been done, learned, or found. Being current in your field also indicates that you network with others in your field - and donors love collaboration between non profits - it shares knowledge, saves repetition and funds, and creates community. Being up on the latest paradigms also indicates that your professionals are keeping up - to the benefit of your consituents, keeping costs down by not repeating what has already been done, and educating themselves. You aren't working in a fog; you're staying in touch and sharing your findings.

If you want to raise funds your non profit must create a regular donor base. The only way to do that is to demonstrate that you are meeting the need in your community that your agency's mission statement lays out. If you are a well managed, effective, honest, and needed non profit - you will not have any difficulties in raising funds, now or in the future. Apply for all grants from a strong position and work to achieve the best of these three attributes!

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