Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Plan to Survive

Today I gave a presentation on Fundraising Planning in the New Economic Environment at the Nonprofit Forum in Redwood City. The Forum brought about 200 nonprofit professionals from throughout San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties to the conference center on the Oracle campus to share strategies for surviving the current economic collapse.

I've taught on the topic of fundraising planning many times over the years, and, of course, have my book out on the subject, but the question I had to ask myself in preparing for today was, "Has the current economic situation changed how we should approach the subject?"

The answer was simply, "No." Good planning is still good planning. The process I outline, and the tools I include, are valid in any economy. The plan that each of them creates for their agencies, of course, will be different today than it may have been a year ago, but the process is the same.

The most important thing was simply to take the time to plan, properly analyzing their funding mix, identifying gaps, establishing realistic goals, and working the plan.

Yesterday, while doing my final preparations for the conference, I came across this posting of a new study by Retriever Development Counsel with a few characteristics of nonprofits that are surviving the recession. Those characteristics include:
  • Those nonprofits with diversified funding, good management, and "learning cultures" seem to be coping much better than others.
  • Successful nonprofits appear to be putting more focus on development activities, particularly donor relations, including cultivation of major donors.
This is nothing new. When I was working for Compasspoint Nonprofit Services (one of the organizers of today's conference) during the dot-com bust of 2002 we did a similar survey, and - not surprisingly - we found that those organizations that were doing best were those that had a development plan.

The plans were all different, and all unique to the organizations that made them. There's no right or wrong plan. The only mistake is failing to plan.

Maybe in a good economy you have the luxury of sitting back and "just letting the money roll in" without any design or thought to how it's going to happen. But today we don't have the time to take chances like that. The time spent planning will be paid back to you with security and sustainability.

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