Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

Impact, Inspiration and Investing for the Long term – Collins & Co NFP Conference

Charlotte-Melbourne 

 Author: Charlotte Francis

 

 

I recently attended the Collins & Co NFP Conference at Melbourne’s iconic MCG. Getting out of the office and connecting with other not-for-profit professionals is always a great way to find inspiration, explore new ideas and network. With a choice of two streams, one focussing on Business and one on People, some of the key themes of the day were:

Impact-led design

The not-for-profit sector needs to rebrand itself as ‘for purpose” and involve its stakeholders in designing solutions: “Too often funding drives program design. It’s about survival rather than mission,” noted Ross Wyatt of thinkimpact. His proposition is that charities should transition from being ‘Mendicants’ to becoming Masters of Change, with impact-led design shaping programs. Hands up, readers, who has succumbed to the temptation of adapting a program to fit the funder?! Coming back again and again to looking at an organisation’s impact – rather than just growth in fundraising – Ross shared some powerful videoed case studies from Shelter Housing Actions Cairns where the beneficiaries themselves voice the program outcomes.

Value Proposition

Felicity Green, Strategic Advisor from Spark Strategy, defined Sustainability as the ability to adapt and respond to factors you can’t change, and emphasised that profit should not be a dirty word. She recommended developing several different value props for both beneficiaries and stakeholders, articulating what problem you are solving for each. And in a theme running through the day, she talked about the importance of having an effective and educated board, one that is involved in the design of your business plan.


Measurement as the bridge to trust 

Craig Stephens, performance coach, mentor and author of ‘Learning Dangerously,’ caught our attention with his picture of swimming in Port Phillip Bay in his suit, which, I am happy to report, survived to tell the tale. His key message was that “what is measured builds trust throughout organisations resulting in improved performance.” As we all know, whether grants, corporate partnerships, appeals or events, it is becoming increasingly important to measure outcomes and impact. As Craig emphasized, quantitative measures are only a starting point and should never be the end point – we need to factor in a qualitative understanding, which helps to inform future program design.

Plan, plan and plan ahead

James Garland of Garland Blanchard stressed the importance of investing in planning for the long term across all areas of fundraising. This was music to my ears – planning ahead and being strategic is something we always encourage as part of a best practice approach; fundraising should never be about fixing a short term financial problem. He also pointed out – and this is something we often encounter at Strategic Grants ¬- that there is a lack of understanding in some organisations about what fundraising involves, and what needs to be in place. For some organisations, the first step might be to educate your board and other stakeholders about the fundraising landscape – who’s who and what’s what.

Strategic Grants runs customised workshops for organisations needing to educate their board and executive team about how grant-seeking and major gifts work. If you need help with any aspects of your grants program – from planning, support, training or education, we’d love to hear from you. Just email us at info@strategicgrants.com.au or call 07 3892 1150.