Our “triangle framework” says that every nonprofit organization consists of three equally important components: the impact on society that is the organization’s mission to achieve, the program it administers toward achieving that impact, and the funding necessary to carry out the program.
While “Program” and “Funding” are supposed to work together to achieve the organization’s mission, from time to time, most nonprofit organizations experience tension between the two. Sometimes, for example, the development team may want to change aspects of the program to satisfy a particular donor. On the flip side, sometimes program people make choices that, while increasing impact, has a limiting effect on fundraising.
This tension can be helpful because it causes organization leaders to rethink their approaches and priorities. But only up to a point. When the relationship between these two critical parts of the organization becomes adversarial, everybody suffers. As a nonprofit leader, what can you do to prevent this tension from escalating?
The key to organization harmony is to constantly look for synergies between the two and put them into action. How?
Bring donors to your program – Nonprofit leaders often discount their donors’ desire to connect with their organization on a deeper level. Create opportunities for donors to come to your facilities and see your program in action. Identify aspects of your program that could benefit from donors volunteering their time or services. As a data management provider, one of the biggest challenges our client organizations face is inputting all of their data into their systems. Perhaps you have donors who could support program staff with their data entry needs. While the task may seem boring, the result can be powerful. Not only will the donors gain a deeper affinity for your organization, thereby inspiring them to give more, but your program staff will gain a stronger appreciation for your donors and feel more personally supported by them.
Incorporate program into fundraising initiatives – Whenever you have donors in a room, it is critically important for them to see what their donations are going toward. Use your events as an opportunity for program participants, staff, and volunteers to tell their stories and demonstrate their work. Think about how much time you spend choosing a venue, preparing menus, designing handouts, etc. for an event. While it is obviously important to do those things well, they are not what your donors will remember from your event. Your donors will remember seeing and hearing the specific ways in which their donations are achieving an impact. And this isn’t just true for events. The program team should play a role in developing content for any solicitations you send. They should have an opportunity to share not just program data but also anecdotes about the work they do. This will lead to greater financial support for your organization and make your program participants, staff, and volunteers feel more connected to your donors.
Anytime you witness tension between two groups (in this case between development and program), the best possible solutions are win-wins. So if you see a conflict brewing, look for opportunities for both parties to support each other. The synergy they create will enable your organization to thrive. ffsda