Planning: Strategy & Workforce

A not-for-profit organization’s effectiveness and capacity to navigate change depends largely on its people. Ask anyone about the characteristics of strong and effective not-for-profit organizations and the conversation will inevitably turn to leadership. Vantage Point’s work is in building the skills and knowledge of not-for-profit leaders to strengthen their leadership performance and impact. In 2017, we did an in-depth evaluation of our program Executive Lab, an advanced program for senior leaders. The impact on individuals and organizations is remarkable.

I’m suggesting that we start asking for a different kind of support. Let’s ask our donors for the gift of capacity. What exactly is capacity? It is impact. It is resilience. It is sustainability. It is taking the time to invest in professional development for the people in our organizations.

When I was hired as the Executive Director for CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) Vancouver-Burnaby, I was charged with accomplishing a few key priorities, including working better with other local CMHA branches.

Formal collaboration had been discussed but was mostly stuck in the research and contemplation phase. An opportunity to bring the three local branches together presented itself through a growing fundraising event called Ride Don’t Hide. I used the event as a way to demonstrate that the local Branches could work together more closely. The Executive Directors had to meet regularly and negotiate an agreement on the often difficult subject of money. My hope was that if the branches could reach agreement on a topic as sensitive as money, they would learn how and if they could work together while building trust. The fundraiser also provided opportunities to build relationships between the boards.

Not-for-profit organizations provide essential services in very complex environments and therefore require high performing staff and boards to achieve meaningful and measurable results. We need a range of core competencies to improve organizational performance – strong leaders with a strategic outlook; boards that govern wisely; and staff that are motivated and encouraged to make a career in the sector.

Recruiting fundraising champions to help your not-for-profit organization find funding and build relationships with funders.

In fundraising, as in life, I have learned that different paths may often lead to unexpected and rewarding results. I once met a couple who got lost and ended up on a remote road leading to the college campus where I worked. This began a journey that lead to a multi-year major gift from their family foundation. I was very glad they took that path!

 

For the last couple of years we’ve really pushed hard to keep our mission at the fore. It’s our lighthouse, our beacon. It keeps our entire team (both paid-with-money & paid-in-other-ways) on course and shining a bright light on the road ahead.  Our visitors hear our mission statement often, and see it as soon as they walk in our doors: we inspire and build leadership in the voluntary sector. 

All paid staff, board members, most of our knowledge philanthropists and many of our customers can recite it verbatim. Some of our customers tell us they can do so even when they can’t recite the...

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