Mission Driven Sustainability
Thursday, December 13th, 2012
Even in a competitive environment, we can stay true to our mission, promote the strengths of our communities, and gain more support for our work. Several key factors can help support sustainability in ways that are true to an organization’s mission.
Keep Community Voice and Community Realities at the Center
If you listen to community, you’ll be ahead of the philanthropic curve. Building strong relationships with your funders and supporters can help you develop and maintain a reputation of being the “go to” organization for working with Latin@ communities. Create opportunities to share key trends with program officers, corporate interest groups, and key individual donors to help keep them engaged in your work throughout the year and poised to help you respond to changing community realities.
A diverse revenue mix is one of the strongest strategies for sustainability. One tool for analyzing your organization’s sustainability and create a comprehensive sustainability plan is The Revenue Evaluation Matrix developed by the Fieldstone Alliance. This tool can be helpful in indentifying areas of opportunity where you can focus your efforts. For example, if a large portion of your revenue already comes from a strong individual donor base but you have few grants from foundations, perhaps it would be a good idea to hire or contract with a grant writer who can help establish a presence among foundations interested in funding your type of work.
Additionally, staying informed about trends in philanthropy, community realities and best practices can help you develop realistic financial projections, and strengthen proposals to foundations, communications with supporters and other advocacy efforts. For example, recently published analysis by the National Center on Responsive Philanthropy discuss trends in multi-year giving, general operating giving and giving to underserved communities. These well-researched articles can be very helpful in making a case for support to potential or current funders.
Being a non-profit organization does not mean that we cannot generate revenue. We are allowed to conduct revenue-generating activities that are related to our mission (developing products and hosting trainings where we share our knowledge, for example) without putting our non-profit status at risk. Activities unrelated to our mission (renting a part of a building out for special events, for example) are still allowed, but it’s possible that taxes would need to be paid for revenue raised through those activities. If you do not have a staff person familiar with these issues, corporate professionals or local accounting firms could be potential sources of pro-bono support to develop a business plan or revenue generating strategy that will bring unrestricted revenue into the organization for years to come.
Invest in Evaluation
It is important that we are able to document what we do and what impact our work has for families. We must be able to share how many people we serve; but we also have to answer the questions: “So what? What difference did you make and how do you know?” The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence has recently launched a new website that serves as a clearinghouse for evidence-based practices related to domestic violence. Know that effective program evaluation does not necessarily require expensive external evaluators. Universities are great potential partners in collaborating to strengthen program evaluation, but project staff can also be trained to capture information, invite feedback, and document success in creative and compelling ways.
In all of our sustainability efforts, we must be proud of our work and unapologetic for our cultural lens and our culturally affirming practices. We must document our success, and share our vision. We are changing the world…and we are a worthy investment.
How do you bring community voices into your program development and sustainability strategies?
Special Projects Manager, National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities
a project of Casa de Esperanza