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What does it take to achieve fundraising success? Is it hiring the right person? Writing a perfect grant? Becoming the darling of the powers-that-be? Nope. Fundraising success begins with consensus amongst leadership regarding the organization’s mission, vision, goals, strategic direction, and financial position. If you are not all on one page, it will be hard to move forward.

Successful fundraising begins long before a fundraising plan is ever created. It starts with your organization’s vision and mission. These two items are at the core of non-profit operations. It is the vision and mission that drive your strategic direction and goals. And it is the strategic direction that influences fundraising and the use of funds.

Once the vision and mission are established, it is the chief executive’s responsibility to ensure they are understood and that the board and employees are in agreement with them. Sometimes we find that the vision, mission, and strategic directions are documented, but that they exist primarily on paper. Discussing these helps bring them back into focus and allows for consensus — or dissenting viewpoints — to develop.

If you find it challenging to secure understanding and agreement, don’t worry — it is better to know now rather than later. Take the time to talk things out. Encourage questions – especially the hard questions that no one wants to ask. True agreement is something that takes time to develop and needs to be retained over the years. And sometimes things change. If your vision, mission, and strategic plan need revising, take the time to do so. This may require the assistance of a strategic planning consultant so that all parties can participate fully in the brainstorming and planning processes. If it does, it is worth the investment: working from a plan helps ensure that resources are used effectively and that all organization members are working in concert toward agreed-upon goals.

When you begin discussions on how much money your organization needs to raise, you will refer to your strategic plan to map out what you are seeking to achieve over the coming years. This is the starting point from which you begin to map out costs and fundraising goals. Understanding the strategic plan allows leaders — executives and board members — to make informed financial projections. Understanding the organization’s financial position and projections informs fundraising and assures that the organization is engaged in proactive fundraising instead of “emergency fundraising.”

Without consensus you may find that you can raise some money, but not the money you need. Donors and funders are always listening, and when organizational leaders share differing or conflicting stories they know that you don’t know where your organization is headed and what you are seeking to accomplish. They may still give, but it won’t be at the level they would if they had confidence in your leadership.

We encourage you to invest the time and effort to reach full understanding and agreement — your organization’s sustained success depends on it.

Excerpted from Prerequisites for Fundraising Success by Mel and Pearl Shaw.

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