Saturday, June 25, 2011

The 3 Laws of Growing any Organization

A late Friday afternoon conversation with one of my clients reminded me of some business fundamentals that I've never seen translated into the Charitable world.  So here, without too much fanfare and perhaps for the first time ever, are Goodworld's three Laws of Organizational Growth, and the related 3 Laws of Revenue Growth for the Charitable world.

Many of you are familiar with these frameworks from a for-profit point of view, and with so many models they are deceptively simple.  What makes the translation into the Charitable world particularly interesting is that on the Revenue side many organizations spend a lot of time focusing on the first option (increasing numbers of supporters), while the most efficient options might well be the next two.  Both Revenue option 2. and 3. are about enhancing relationships, and that's something that every successful charity should be very good at!

So there you have it - just like Newton's Laws, but inspired not by an apple but by too many spreadsheets!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Giving to the Charitable World: With your Heart and your Head

The topic of how best to have real impact in the charitable world came up in a conference last weekend. Obviously one way to make a positive difference in the world (charitable and otherwise), is to work in the sector. That’s what I chose, but years ago as I researched my options I got some advice that has stuck with me: you don’t have to work in a charity to make a difference for a charity.

So if you're not going to work in the sector how might you have your impact?

One great way to do that is to make a gift. You can give your time (volunteer), your talent (sit on a Board or do something related to your skills), or your "treasure" (making a monetary or in-kind gift). Millions of Canadians give very generously every year, and lives are transformed and saved through their kindness and spirit.

It’s usually our hearts that compel us to give, but I’d like to suggest that giving with your head is pretty smart too. Assuming you’ve found a charity that inspires your heart, here are three ways you can help ensure your gift is given with some forethought that you may not have thought about.

  1. Some charities need your gift more than others do. If you've got a few charities that might make your giving list, consider how much “surplus” each organization has generated in the previous few years. How much of a "reserve" do they have? You want some money for the lean times, but could they keep operating for years without your gift? Ask for each charities’ Audited Annual Financial Report – particularly if an abbreviated version isn't on-line.
  2. Dig deeper than just the numbers. Despite the first point, you’ll also want to understand a bit about how funds that are raised are used: do they offer robust, impactful programs and activities? Just knowing that a charity doesn't spend much on fundraising or operational costs actually tells you very little. A youth centre can show very low costs if they’re only open one day a week and have little to offer the youth they serve, but then would you really want to support such a meagre program?
  3. Lastly, get really close to your short-list of charities. Maybe you want to make a "trial gift", of a smaller amount to see how they respond. Or better yet, volunteer and spend some time at your top charities. Which one do you really like now that you know it better? And best yet, your gift will be that much more valuable to you once you know the people and programs you’ll be helping!
Happy giving! From the heart and the head.