Insights from Kimbia senior principal, Miriam Kagan
I’ve been thinking a lot about our industry and how we are always pushed for “MORE.”
In the nonprofit world, we’ve become conditioned to believe that more is always better. But is that really true?
Whether we’re focused on gross or net, we break out into a sweat if we can’t show significant annual improvements measured by percent growth, compared to the prior years. Visionary leaders at nonprofits are lauded for revolutionary BHAG goals when they say, “we are going to evolve from a $10 million organization to a $100 million one over the next five years.”
While this definitely isn’t a bad thing, over the years I’ve often wondered: should the goal really be bigger? Instead, maybe the goal should be better, and more efficient, while still maintaining the level of excellence we’ve already achieved.
I can’t even begin to count the number of conversations I’ve had that went something like: “Our board has decided we need to make an additional $7 million in direct response next year, but we have no extra money to do that. Can you tell us how to make that happen?”
Having a goal of earning more money is certainly a good one – it allows us to invest in more life-saving research, buy up more rainforest, feed more children and save more puppies. But it’s also important that we consider how realistic that goal is, and if we always expect it to grow the same amount.
In his book, Throwing Rocks at The Google Bus, Douglas Rushkoff makes a distinction between growth (bigger and bigger) and maintenance (better, setting an expectation of value), and how focusing on the first can limit those in charge of delivering the results.
Think of it as if your organization were a car company – should you keep trying to sell an even larger number of cars, or instead, should you make the same number of cars, but in better quality – ones that appeal more to a specific market that will keep coming back for your value?
If an organization’s prime goal is to keep growing, that strategy can potentially eliminate a lot of risk-taking involved with innovative programs that could reap big rewards. So, can we invest in long-term projects that will benefit our mission and those we serve, but that may siphon off resources in the short-term? Do we start focusing more on fundraising and less on mission?
This question is certainly not a one-size-fits-all answer, but with the proliferation of nonprofits over the last two decades, the increasing ease of asking for money and actually getting that money (think crowdfunding), more nonprofits are going to start saying to themselves, “do we really need to keep trying to be bigger, or should we focus more on being really great at what we do?”
Interested in speaking with Kimbia about how to better your fundraising programs? Contact us today!