The theme of this year’s Texas Nonprofit Summit was
“Inspiring Allies and Impact.” This was the first time in the past several
years that I was able to attend and give the content my undivided attention.
The opening Keynote was offered by Dr. Tererai Trent, whose testimony of
escaping a remote village in Zimbabwe to obtain her Ph D. and found Tinogona, a nonprofit dedicated to
constructing schools in Africa, brought tears to many attendees eyes.
- On the need for nonprofit collaboration: “It takes two rocks
to kill head lice.”
- On nonprofits competing for funds: “When two elephants
fight, the grass loses.”
She concluded her speech with perhaps the most memorable
quote of the summit, exclaiming “Nonprofits defy everything because we want
meaning in other people’s lives.”
The first breakout session I attended focused on peer to
peer fundraising, and how to harness the power of supporters and followers.
While conceptually the session was interesting, and reminded me to use more
multimedia components like photos, videos, and infographics, I felt like the
tools and content really were targeted toward a larger organization with more
than a one person development office. Does my organization have a large enough
following to implement a peer to peer fundraiser? Probably not. Do I have the
time or resources to create a mobile app or online donation applications? No.
Nonetheless, I was inspired to spend more time implementing our website and to
better tell my organization’s story.
I then attended a session directed by Rachel Armbruster, who
is best known for her direction on the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s yellow
bracelet campaign with corporate partner Nike. Not conincidentally, the session
discussed how to best foster corporate relationships and collaborate with corporations
to raise revenue and organizational awareness. She was unsurprisingly full of
insight, stressing flexibility and the need to court corporations rather than
ship materials to them and hope for the best (something I know I’ve been guilty
of). She encouraged implementing networking opportunities and relationships
stemming from board members and existing partners. A bulk of the session
discussed what attracts corporate partners, from volunteer programs and
innovative practices to integrate staff with charity initiatives, to how to
show partners that their investment is worthwhile and valuable. She also
stressed the importance of making opportunities and programs
web-accessible….another item for the to do list. I also attended a few other
sessions and film screening covering data metrics and outcomes management.
So what were my biggest takeaways from the conference?
USE YOUR WEBSITE AS A TOOL. Every session
stressed the increased time people spend on social media, mobile apps, and the
internet. There are tons of opportunities online to reach new audiences and
increase awareness for your organization. Put as much information online as
possible, and begin to engage online.
METRICS MATTER. It isn’t enough to offer great
programming and mission focused services. Now, donors have a wide array of
organizations competing for their dollar, and they are seeking the biggest and
most tangible impact for their buck. Organizations need to track progress, make
changes to services not offering substantial impact, and be ready to show
donors successes (and failures) of programming.
DON’T PUT YOUR EGGS IN ONCE BASKET. It isn’t
enough to have a thriving individual donor base anymore. Corporations, grants,
individual donors, third party fundraisers, and other supporters all need to be
integrated into a healthy development plan. Grant funders and donors are
looking for sustainability, and the better an organization can prove this, the
more likely they are to be supported.
RELAX. Everyone is in the same boat as you.
While the American Cancer Society and Charity Water are touted as wonderful
examples for charities to live by, most organizations are small shops, where everyone works hard and doesn’t cross off everything on their to do
list before they go home.