The Goldie Company

Parley: April 2010 - 2010: The Year of the Game Changer

“My organization is running scared from trend to trend with no plan in sight. No real significant or strategic change is planned. Our team just comes in, works until exhaustion and then goes home late. We only gather or plan around threats or crisis.” Anonymous, Fundraising CEO in Canada.

What is keeping you awake at night?

As fundraising professionals and a community of social entrepreneurs focused on driving the charitable giving engine of Canada, there is a lot to think about these days. It’s an increasingly complex and competitive world and ‘game change’ is in the air. Whether it is navigating the current depths of the economic recovery, finally accepting the power of Facebook, or upping your game to more effectively connect with your donors, 2010 is shaping up to be a transformative year. And having the right strategy or game plan will be what makes or breaks you and your organization.

So, we asked several of our closest friends in Canadian fundraising to share some key insights with you and to help you think about your plan. And just like what we can learn from the hit TV show Survivor, strategy is survival. And vice versa.

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

“Adjusting to the reality of where the economy will reset after the recession,” says Chris Kotsopoulos of the Children’s Wish Foundation.

And indeed, the impact of the recession (arguably a little more forgiving to Canada than the rest of the world) and more importantly what the rebound will look like, should be at the top of your worry list. Making sure that your organization is perfectly positioned to maximize the reset is a key challenge. Where will you invest your resources moving forward?

“Donors have become more creative in response to economic challenges,” says one fundraiser. “So we need to be more creative in how we ask them going forward.”

On the bright side, a recession is a good excuse to clean house, clear strategy and unload the baggage of poor decisions (and their legacies) and try something new. So, what the newest thing out there? If visions of millions of Twitter messages pounding your blackberry came to mind, then you guessed right.

From minor, to moderate, to significant importance in organizational planning, social media is now clearly on the agenda, where it probably was nervously laughed off a few years ago.

How has the so-called social media revolution changed things for your organization?

“We are establishing a Facebook and Twitter account for the first time,” says Sheldon Oleksyn of the Boys and Girls Club of Edmonton. “But we are still creating a strategy for how best to use them.”

“We are beginning to post news and events, etc. on other Facebook walls, reaching out to like-minded groups and planning a website redevelopment that will incorporate Web 2.0 options, particularly to create new opportunities to grow our e-community,” says Colin Jenkins of Community Home Assistance to Seniors (CHATS). “We are also investigating mobile giving.”

For others, social media is still the mysterious elephant in the room. You know it’s there – in fact you can’t miss it – but you have no idea what it plans to do next.

Whether or not Twitter is at the top of your strategic priorities, we must remember that it is a tool used to meet other more long-standing objectives around connecting to your donors. In short, it’s still about the donor, stupid. Where do they fit in to your new game plan?

What are the biggest concerns for donors and what should we be doing about that?

Simply put, it’s about the efficacy of donor dollars and impact, meaning “what their dollar does for them,” says Lee Pigeau of Lakehead University. “We need to keep donors informed of the direct impact of their donations.”

For some, the Facebook generation is providing solutions. “We can stay close to donors, get them involved in different ways not attempted yet,” says Oleksyn.

What’s next? Leadership.

So, how do we keep on top of our game and what can we do to take proactive steps in 2010 to make sure we are on the right track? From a better communications strategy, to increased transparency to making sure we meet donors true (not our perceptions of) needs, it is really about how we make the most of our leadership role.

For us it’s about how to “be innovative, take risks to partner with other non-for-profits, for-profits, in an effort to maximize the effect of the donor dollar,” says Jenkins. “We are making a fundamental shift in who we see as our target audience as donors. Traditionally, as a service agency, we have seen our clients as our prospective donors. Our shift will see appeals directly to families, businesses, the greater community, to show the impact of the work we do, and the impact of the work in their respective lives.”

“We are now committing to new programs which are outside of our normal operations to adapt to the needs of the 21st century i.e., renewable and more efficient energy technologies,” says David Chambers of Durham College.

So in the end, the trends seem clear. Strategy. Strategy. Strategy.

And the key drivers behind your strategy? Post-recession positioning. Social media. Donor engagement. Transparency and accountability.

Maybe nothing shocking here, but one thing is clear. Strategy is king. And more so now, than ever, in 2010. So if you are not investing in building better mousetraps, everyone else is. And that will inevitably impact you and your organization in one way or another. (Better brush up on past seasons of Survivor.) And if that doesn’t keep you up at night, just wait. It will.

Assuming of course your game plan includes not getting voted off the island.