10 Ideas to Kickstart Your Funding Plan

Funding Planning seems to be on a LOT of minds right now. Perhaps you're feeling a bit squeezed dry from all we've been through in the past 2.5 years. Maybe it's just a 'holy moly the new fiscal year is starting...NOW!' bit of anxiety. Whatever the reason, if you're stressing about moolah, here are a few things you can do to get yourself a bit more organized and ready to make money this fiscal year: Determine your income goal for the next fiscal year and compare it to what the organization brought in last fiscal year. What's the difference? Talk to board members and current funders about possible ways to bridge that gap. Make a list of funding you know is guaranteed this fiscal year. Make a list of current income streams that you feel you can increase this year. Dust off last year's donor solicitation letter, update it with juicy data and stories of success and compelling statements about your new plans. Send the new draft of your letter to your board an


I’ve been thinking a lot about Main Street (historic downtown) events and street closures. Partly because I’m consulting with several Main Street communities this summer. But also, partly because one of my dearest friends is a Main Street merchant and her community has elected to shut down their Main Street Friday evenings through Sunday mornings. When I was a Main Street Manager (if you know me well, this is my version of “This one time in band camp”) I got an earful from Main Street merchants every time my organization put on an event that caused street closures. Every. Single. Time. Downtown retail business owners let me know how much they disliked the street closures. How bad it was for business. How bad it was for customers to not be able to park outside their shop. How much money they lost during events. How many people wanted to just use their bathroom. How much loss they suffered from shoplifting. How disruptive all the unchaperoned children were. And I would argue back: but th

13 Ways to Know if You've Got Entrepreneurial Spirit

We've got spirit, yes we do! We've got spirit, how about you? Do you remember that from high school sports games? We may have rolled our eyes at the simplicity of the cheerleader chant but add a couple of decades and some of us are running around with this mantra in our heads. We're the ones with entrepreneurial spirit. We don't call ourselves business owners - although most of us are, in fact, business owners - we call ourselves entrepreneurs. And we've got spirit. How can you tell an entrepreneur from a regular business owner? How do you know if you are one? There are too many differences to count but I'm going to give you 13 of them. Why 13 and not a nice even 10 or a round 15? Well, that's #1 on the list: 1. We don't pay attention to societal norms and expectations. You say 13 is a cursed number. You won't even allow it to be a number on an elevator button. Entrepreneurs laugh and make 13 their new lucky number. We're ok with going against th

No More Shoestrings!

  If I had a dollar for every time a nonprofit leader said to me they couldn’t afford something because they had a “shoestring budget” I’d have enough money to buy them all slip-ons by now. At some point in our history the word ‘nonprofit’ became synonymous with things like poor, needy, make do, sacrifice, zero/balanced budgets, no growth, trudge along. Not every organization runs like this, but many do. And I’m on the verge of pulling a Moonlighting version of Cher. Snap out of it! Nonprofits are businesses that must operate with a mindset of sustainability and growth. To do this, each organization must plan a budget that exceeds its annual expenses. A budget that nets out to zero (income matching expenses, dollar for dollar) does not do this. I urge every nonprofit leader to examine their annual budget thinking “what would I like to be able to do next year that I don’t have the funds for this year?”. When you’re planning next year’s budget ask yourself (and also your staff and board,

Strategic Planning: Its not just for nonprofits anymore

When I started doing strategic planning work with my nonprofit clients, I would tell them that it's just a business plan, but for a nonprofit. But something felt ‘off’ in that statement. It was a great way to get my clients to comprehend the need to have such a plan and the types of things that would go into a plan, though, so I continued to use that analogy for a while. Until one day I decided that I, personally, needed a strategic plan. It seemed a bit silly, but there were things in my life that I wanted to work toward. I wanted a clear roadmap to help me determine what types of things I would need to do to help me achieve these goals and when I should do them for maximum impact. And, of course, I also wanted to know how long it would take me to reach such achievement. (Yes, this is me in my personal life. I’m the life of the party with my spreadsheets and budgets!) That’s when it hit me – strategic plans aren’t just for nonprofits. Everyone should have a strategic plan! Ok, may

be the GLITTER!

The holiday season is upon us, and we know what that means, every mailbox and email box will be filled with nonprofit pleas for donations. So many worthy causes and only so much money you’re willing to part with in the name of charity. But what if you’re the leader of one of those direct-mail-dropping organizations? How do you make your mission stand out? How do you show your shine and become THE ONE people select from a dozen other cries for contributions? My first piece of advice is to be realistic; not EVERY prospective donor is going to become a sure-thing-donor and even those who will, may not contribute to your organization during the holidays. Next, consider if your organization would be better served by soliciting contributions at another, less popular, time of year? If your organizational mission is strongly tied to the holidays (like, say, Toys for Tots or the Salvation Army) then definitely this is YOUR time of year. If, however, your mission is no more critical in December

10 Business-y Things to Do During the Holidays

The end of the year holidays are a busy time for everyone, personally. But while some businesses are doing double-time to keep up with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, others are woefully slow. Regardless of which type of business you own, there are several ways that you can capitalize on your time during the season that will benefit your business. I’ve compiled a list of ideas to share with you – some will be perfect for your business and others will be perfect for someone else. Increasing sales 1. Give away a gift with each minimum purchase or signed contract 2. Create a digital marketing campaign around a competition or drawing 3. Donate a portion of sales to a charity of your choice For your current customers 4. Send hand-written thank you/holiday cards 5. Create and share holiday gratitude videos 6. Share your personal 2021 story in an email Just for fun 7. Decorate your storefront. Extra bonus points if you get your neighbors to do the same. Super ext

What you don't know about grants might surprise you

The most common question I get from nonprofit leaders when they hear about my business is “Do you do grant writing?” I used to say yes, but then the conversation typically continued like this: Nonprofit: Great! There’s a grant we’d like to go after and applications are due in two weeks. Me: Ok. Tell me about the program this grant will be funding. Nonprofit: {crickets} Me: Ok. Then tell me what you’d like to use the grant money for. Nonprofit: General operations. Me: Did you read through the grant to see if they allow for their funds to be used that way? Most don’t allow for use of funds to pay for payroll, rent and other operational expenses. Nonprofit: {crickets} Me: I could help you try to find funding to help with specific programs that you have, or even see if we can find a funder who has a particular interest in helping nonprofits with a mission like yours who will allow funds to be used for operational funds. What is your budget? Nonprofit: How much can you get us? And it’s ok i

Board & Organizational Development

Image really can't have one without the other. I was asked to submit a guest blog to th e Connecticut Main Street Center about finding board members. During the process of ripping apart an old article on working boards ...and trying to piece it together again sans tongue in cheek...I realized that I have a LOT to say on the topic of board development. Part of it is old trauma still rearing its ugly head after having spent the better part of five years trying to get a dysfunctional board to actually work . One of the most dreaded lines I’d heard as an executive director from board members (and I heard it many, many times. Grrrrr) was, “I don’t have time for this, I have a full-time job!” And in the back of my mind, I answered the same way every time, “Yes, but you also have a part-time job. Here. In this organization. You signed up for this. You VOLUNTEERED.” Simply put no one puts a gun to the heads of working board members and forces them to fill a vacant seat in an organizati

Tips for Better Meetings

I've become a big fan of the #virtual meeting, especially when #meeting in person means preparation, a lengthy drive, finding parking, "settling in" time, etc. Virtual meetings save so much time. On the other hand, being in the same room with people has so much benefit. So how do I plan for future meetings? Which is better for one-on-ones? For groups? Here are the questions I’m asking myself as I plan meetings or receive invitations to meetings: 1)   What is the purpose of this meeting? So many people request meetings with no defined purpose, discussion points, or agenda. If the meeting seems to lack an objective, I’ll suggest a phone call instead or request an agenda. 2)   Is this a person I already know, or someone who’s new to me? If it’s someone I don’t know, do I want to know them? What do they have to offer me and/or what do I have to offer them? This may seem like a selfish or even arrogant question, but I’ve learned that if you don’t respect your time, no one else