The Brady Bunch and eliminating government funding dependency

Before I left on vacation, I sent approximately 75 of my closest non-profit friends an online survey that would give me necessary insights on services and pricing I should offer as part of my new consulting business. It was an anonymous survey so I don’t know who responded, but I wish to thank the 56 people who took time out of their busy schedules to help me out. The information they provided have helped me greatly with my business plan.

Some people also dropped me an email when they completed the survey because they were compelled to share additional comments. I very much appreciated those emails because the advice provided in each instance was “pure gold.” However, one response caught my attention and has had my mind spinning for a few days. Here is part of what she said:

“This is probably just me, but I am so frustrated with the concept and the reality of ‘strategic planning’.  These past two years have shown that in order to be strategic an organization needs information…at least somewhat reliable information.  The only strategic goal that makes sense would be to eliminate government funding. I am hoping that someone will come up with a way to address plans for the future based on the way not-for-profits really live.”

It is funny how my brain works sometimes. As I’ve stewed on this input, I couldn’t get The Brady Bunch’s song “Time to Change” out of my head. Click the YouTube link if you want to enjoy a blast from the past. LOL

So, I googled the lyrics to the song and found this great advice:

“When it’s time to change, then its time to change
Don’t fight the tide, come along for the ride, don’t you see
When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange
who you are into what you’re gonna be.”

I think this is great advice for non-profit organizations regarding how to approach what is likely to be a government funding crisis for many non-profit organizations. Essentially, the song suggests that fighting change is the wrong course of action. Those who will survive will figure out how to adapt and ride the tide.

So, many of you are probably saying (just like my friend did in her email), “That’s great Erik, but where do I start? Strategic planning hasn’t worked for me in the past.” Here are just a few random thoughts I hope you will chew on and consider as you start preparing for 2012:

  • Engage board volunteers to help with a benchmarking project (identify nonprofit agencies that look like yours and have a different funding model then study their best practices … figure out what they are doing and how to measure it at your organization).
  • Conduct a resource development audit or a resource development review. This might help you identify new opportunities and paths forward.
  • Engage key stakeholders (e.g. staff, board, donors, etc) in creating a written resource development plan that doesn’t rely on government funding. Use the process to “engage” people … which means asking at each turn “who wants to help with this part of the plan?” And when no one wants to implement the suggestions they just provided, then axe it from the plan and ask them what else should be done? Realistic plans work; whereas, unsupported, pie-in-the-sky plans never work!

If this all seems like too much work and you are exhausted from the daily grind, then how about just starting with this one simple idea:

  • Call your top 5 donors
  • Ask them to join you for lunch or after-work cocktails
  • Tell them your story and the future forecast of government funding
  • Ask them what they think your agency should do
  • Then just shut-up, listen, take notes and ask for their help in taking the next small step

Donors can be MORE THAN just a source of funding for your agency … they can be the voices of change much like Peter Brady was for the Brady Bunch.

What are you and your agency doing to prepare for a future with scarce government resources? How do you plan on strategically repositioning your organization? What tools and strategies will you use? Who will you engage? Please use the comment box below to share because we can learn from each other.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

One comment

  1. It sounds like an incredible trip. I’d adore to determine much more pictures. My next vacation is in about six month so i can only read and dream of travelling through the world …

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