Welcome to my summer resource roundup. I won’t talk to you about downtime — I know the “season of leisure” is typically anything but. Summer can be among the busiest times for nonprofits, particularly in terms of planning. Yet how often have you looked back at summer from the even more hectic days of autumn events and end-of-year accounting and thought, Why didn’t I think of that then?

These resources all address key aspects of the work — and well-being — of a nonprofit, with ideas and recommendations that can be acted on in the coming weeks. This set also illustrates how traditional summer activities — say, retreats, granting time for new projects and, yes, disconnecting to a degree — can apply to organizations as well. Here’s to a fruitful rest of summer and planning that supports a more successful fall.

“I Wish I’d Thought of That!” — Resources to Ensure You Do

1. Strategic PlanningGetting Perspective on “Adaptive Challenges”  
What’s the state of your strategic plan? Assuming you have one — and if you don’t, this piece is even more relevant — does it fully reflect reality for your nonprofit today? This article from Third Space Studio spotlights a sticky issue for organizations as they develop and change: “adaptive challenges,” those problems that aren’t clearly understood, making the process of finding solutions like piloting in a fog. Among recommendations for how to find clarity — get distance from the everyday work of your organization and bring in a variety of voices that can provide perspective on operations and values. There’s a great anecdote about a retreat that can demonstrate why a summer staff getaway can be highly productive.
2. Board Development: Addressing Trends on Giving
Here's another resource from Third Space Studio that can do double duty in your board and donor development departments. This 2016 annual survey of donor giving among small nonprofits (budgets under $2 million), free to download from the site, offers valuable benchmarks for like-sized organizations. Among stats to pay particular notice: only 38% of small nonprofits report board members help raise donations from individuals, a drop from 40% in 2015. How does your board compare — and is it time to recruit members who are more engaged and engaging fundraisers? Summer events and informal socializing can uncover board candidates to cultivate. Don’t let opportunity slip away.
3. Donor Development: Creating and Interpreting Surveys
Whether you’ve surveyed your donors or considered doing so, check out this resource for what-how-and-why guidance on planning a survey and, equally helpful, making sense of what you get back. This article from Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training features a case study of an organization’s major gifts strategy and how it uses donor surveys as a key component. Among standout insights — surveys are “conversation starters,” and when major donors don’t respond, they’re saying they want to give but not “talk.” If a summer donor survey for informing fall fundraising is doable for your organization, make this a must-read for preparation and analysis.
4. Fundraising: Video Tips for Lucrative Storytelling
Has a fundraising video been on your development to-do list? This stat should shake off the dust and get the camera rolling: based on a Google study, 57% of people who watch a fundraising video make a donation! That kind of powerful incentive — and plenty of practical advice — are waiting in this resource from Classy. Tips for creating compelling videos come with examples from organizations that are doing it right. Note the piece makes the point that videos don’t have to be professionally done. Amateur videos by talented staff can be very effective. For getting your staff the skills they need, TechSoup is offering Tuesday Tech30, a series of free 30-minute weekly webinars. There’s summer school for raising your nonprofit’s tech know-how.  
5.  Staff Well-BeingSigning Off from After-Hours Email
With vacations in the works, or hopefully so, summer can be a perfect time to alter staff routines. For nonprofits that know no email boundaries — where sending emails and feeling obligated to respond basically occurs 24/7 — this common-sense GuideStar blog is more must reading. Author Beth Kanter recognizes that email is a habit and a mindset, and that changing patterns is not simple. Yet, for the good of staff health and productivity, she advocates for putting limits on after-hours emailing and provides links to an array of online resources to support scaling back. Revisit your organization’s expectations for when staff is “on.” If it fits, why not take nights off in August?

Susan J. Ragusa is a nonprofit strategist with expertise in board/executive leadership and fundraising. She applies her early career experience in education through workshops, speaker and panel presentations. Susan is a go-to source of common-sense advice, problem-solving and resources for tackling organizational challenges.

Copyright © 2017 Susan J Ragusa, All rights reserved.

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