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Show Me the Money!

You can’t say it without picturing Cuba Gooding and Tom Cruise engaged in the now famous exchange in the movie “Jerry Maguire,” as Cuba’s character Rod Tidwell expressed his primary interest in retaining Jerry as his agent – “Show Me the Money!”

I’m approached on a regular basis by grassroots organizations, faith-based organizations, and not-for-profits of all sizes, seeking our assistance with one thing – that’s right – money. Because if they could just get some money everything else would be all right – or so they think. “Can you write a grant for us or get us the money we need?” they ask.  As the conversation continues, I ask my clients to consider their “readiness” to receive grant money. And, for the record, this question normally doesn’t go over too well.

Money should not be the priority or primary concern that motivates you or your organization. Money can be your worst enemy if you get it when you’re not ready to receive it.  Sure, it takes money to get work done, but there are several factors that demand our attention before we ask others to invest in us.

1.   Need
What is the issue, challenge, problem, or situation that you seek to address?  Answering this question is critical, particularly for many grassroots and faith-based organizations who – in their quest to help – try to be all things to all people.  Don’t stretch yourself too thin.  The key word here is focus.

2.   Assets (Capacity)
Now, just because you’ve figured out what problem you’re trying to solve, you still can’t run out and ask for money.  The next question you need to answer is what assets and resources do you have and/or have access to that can address the need.  Remember, just because a need exists and is validated doesn’t mean it’s yours to fix. Look within your organization at your volunteers, staff, board, space, vehicles, equipment, knowledge, skills, abilities, relationships, and previous successes.  Make sure you have the assets or the access to address the need.

3.   Vision
As an organization you need a vision – a picture of success.  When I ask individuals and organizations about their vision I often get a blank stare and then they begin to tell me about what they’re doing.  The vision is not what you do – it’s what the community will look like after you do what you do.  The vision needs to be compelling, inviting, challenging, and serve as a call to action for others to support you.  Remember the vision is that which you can only see if your eyes are closed and your heart is open.

4.   Mission
If nothing else, the mission should tell others what you do, who you do it for, and where you do it.  It is not a list of programmatic or ministry activities: it is the overarching purpose of those activities.  Some good mission words include: Develop, Promote, Equip, Connect, Reduce, or Promote. You can test the validity of your mission by asking one simple question:  If we do this, will it lead to our vision?  The mission is the road you travel to get to your vision.

5.   Values
At the core of your organization are your values.  We define values as the non-negotiable principles that you will not compromise and that guide your decision making. Values are unique to each organization and depend on that organization’s culture.  Whether you have a written values statement or not, we all have organizational values.  They are evident in our relationships, decisions, and activities.  For instance, if you say you value feedback from your constituents, but there is no mechanism in place for them to provide that feedback, then it’s not really a value: it’s just a nice thought.

If the mission is the road you travel to get to your vision, then your values serve as the guardrails.  They protect you and keep you within your mission. One result of a lack of values is mission drift.  We sway off course because we’re chasing money.  One irrefutable fact is that ministry does not follow money, but money will always follow ministry.

Understanding, respecting, and communicating your Strategic Framework to all stakeholders will help you identify potential grant opportunities, as well as partnering agencies, board members, volunteers, donors, and others who share your passion for helping others.

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It’s a paper weight…

It’s a paper weight – No!
It’s a door stop– No!
It’s a dust collector on my book shelf – No!
What is it? It’s your Strategic Plan.

If you’ve ever attended a Strategic Planning session you can identify with the above. The thought of Strategic Planning sends chills down the spine of many executives and board members who cringe at the thought of engaging in this annual ritual of “Write It Down and Put It Away.” Normally, the only time the plan is opened is when we’re about to have our annual session and we want to at least make sure we change some of language.

Contrary to popular belief and conventional wisdom, planning is not the problem. Think of it this way: if you join the gym and hire a personal trainer who gives you a workout routine, but you don’t work out, is it the gym or trainer’s fault when you don’t lose weight? Of course not – they gave you access to the tools but YOU still have to use them.

A strategic plan is a tool, and like any other tool if you leave it on the shelf it won’t do you any good.

The plan is only as good as the execution. We’ve developed a formula that we believe you’ll appreciate:

P-E = WoT (Planning – Execution = Waste of Time). Here are two major challenges…

1. Lack of Input
Far too often the only people involved in the strategic planning session are the board members. Engage a variety of stakeholders in your planning efforts. The Strategic Plan is not the time for the board to relish in their authority and sneak away for an exclusive weekend of “Us planning for Them.” Without the proper input, the plan is useless.

2. Lack of Ownership
If stakeholders don’t have input, then they also can’t claim ownership. Think about – when was the last time you washed a rental car? That’s right, you haven’t. Why? Because you didn’t own it. You can’t expect people to care for, adhere to, and put their dedication and effort into something they don’t own.


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