In the first part of this article, I recommended that you/your non-profit organization plan to host a summit meeting with as many of the non-profit groups in your community as you can gather in one place at one time. Once at this summit, I started listing goals that you should strive to accomplish. The first four of these goals were:

  1. Make a thorough introduction of each group and person that goes beyond the casual niceties of most meetings.
  2. Launch a brainstorming session that lists the problems facing your community.
  3. Actively seek out opportunities for collaborative projects between groups with similar missions.
  4. Look for ways that the non-profits can combine services in order to save money.

In the second part of this article, I will continue this list.

5. The fifth goal that I recommend this summit address is a thorough review of all fundraising calendars. Every group should be prepared to share the dates and the kind of fundraisers that they are planning to run in the upcoming year (groups should bring printed copies of their schedule to pass out).

This could catch some groups unprepared, as not every non-profit is used to thinking ahead like this, so you should make this part of the invitation. Announce that you would like to create a master community fundraising calendar so that no groups conflict with each other, any more than is absolutely unavoidable. Then, give the groups time to put their calendars together before the summit date.

At the meeting, ask everyone to pass around the copies of their calendar. From there, start discussing which dates, if any, are in conflict.

The most important things to look for in this process are clashing dates of major fundraising events between groups and a repeat of the kinds of fundraisers that are being run. It’s just poor planning if four different non-profits are holding a silent auction in the spring- trust me, I’ve seen that exact situation happen. People in the community start rolling their eyes and saying “Oh no, not again!” Business owners cringe when their front doors open, because they know it’s yet another group asking for a donation. If you don’t want this fundraising logjam to pile up in your community, you’ve got to compare notes with the other organizations.

This is also an exercise that will encourage groups to get creative. If you all decide that four silent auctions is just too much to foist upon any one town, then two or three groups will have to come up with something different. And that’s a good thing! There are so many different kinds of events or sales or other methods that can raise just as much money as a silent auction. People just have to be willing to try something new.

Of course, this could also lead to in-fighting amongst the participating non-profits. That is the least desirable outcome of a summit, so try to avoid this, if possible. Each group should be willing to compromise a little to gain a lot. If you learn of groups fighting over dates, see if you can help negotiate a settlement or just let them keep their dates. A damaged relationship is not worth it.

6. The sixth goal that should come out of this summit is one that will have to be expressed to the public at large, and that is the creation of a unified front of the non-profit community in your area. Eventually, everyone will realize that the wide array of 501(c)(3)s are working together for a greater good. They will become aware of a fundraising atmosphere in the town that is thoughtful of donors and of the other non-profits.

And, if a new non-profit group were to suddenly spring up, the leaders of that organization would have an excellent resource to plug into and they would quickly learn how not to step on other groups’ collective toes.

However, this kind of a unified front will take time, effort, and persistence to build. There will be plenty of opposition to making this kind of a move, because it require compromise and change, and many people don’t like those two words. So, the groups present at this meeting will have to agree to “sell” this notion of unity within their own organizations, and every time they do a press interview going forward, they should find a way to mention the wonderful non-profit community that exists in their town. After a while, people will pick up on this new ear of communication and cooperation.

To be continued…

Check back soon for the conclusion to this article.

Photo by: galleryquantum

Posted on 20 January 2011

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