Multiple Freedoms

When we talk about freedom, we are usually not specific about the exact type of freedom we are referencing. Freedom exists, or does not, on multiple levels: personal, institutional, political, and spiritual.

Personal freedom reflects the everyday choices that we make about our lives. It is how we choose to spend our time, how we choose to feel, how we choose to think, and how we choose to act. It is an intrinsic freedom which we all inherently possess, but it is contoured by institutional and political freedom. It can also be confined by other individuals who limit our freedom through abuse outside of those systems.

Institutional freedom reflects the ability we have to make decisions in the organizations and groups to which we belong such as our workplace, community organizations, or religious community. Political freedom is granted to us by the nation in which we live. Institutional and political freedom are conditional and structural. The amount of freedom each person has is based on her or his place in the system which may or may not be negotiable.

Spiritual freedom reflects an unlimited resource that is within our souls. It comes from a place that unites us all. Because this freedom is unlimited, access is unrestricted and we are all equally entitled to enjoy it. Spiritual freedom represents our rights as human beings inhabiting the earth.

The People Pages: Develop Your Nonprofit Idea

from The People Pages: Resources for Social Change (c) 2003 The Fruition Coalition

It makes sense to start a new organization if:

  • The community, including program participants, volunteers, and the general public, demonstrates strong support for the organization in its preliminary stages
  • You (as a group) are effective programmatically and administratively
  • You have or will be able to develop the resources necessary to operate and flourish now and into the future
  • You have distinctive and extraordinary professional expertise or you own and are willing to share intellectual property for the financial benefit of the organization
  • You do not seek ownership of the organization’s resources or complete control of the organization’s management and operations

If you are confident that your nonprofit will fly, make sure you…

  1. Don’t replicate existing programs.  Find a way to make your organization distinctive and unique in its’ programs and services, population served, and/or methodology.
  2. Educate yourself.  Learn all you can about nonprofit organizations, management, laws and regulations, fundraising, and your program area.  You can do this by reading books, attending workshops and seminars, and networking.
  3. Enlist the help of others.  Start talking to people about your idea.  Form a Planning Committee composed of community members, people working in your field of interest, and business, law, financial, and human services professionals. Meet regularly to share ideas and map out a start-up plan.  Some of these people may continue to serve on your Board of Directors if you decide to incorporate.
  4. Ensure that your commitment is genuine and lasting before going to the next level. Starting a new organization is an incredibly challenging and time consuming process.  You will plant many seeds now that may take months or even years to bloom.

Before embarking on your new venture, share your vision with others and gather information to ensure that your project is feasible and sustainable.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Research similar programs.  Find out if any other organizations are doing similar work in your area.  To do this, you can call your local United Way, do a search on Guidestar.org, or look in local phone or guidebooks.  Set up a meeting to learn more about their mission and programs.   This will help you understand more about your community, its residents, and the programs and services that are already in place.  In addition, there may be a way that you can collaborate together to better serve your common constituents.
  2. Ask the people what they want.  Interview the people who would participate in your activities to see what their needs and desires are.  Talk to local small business owners and residents in your neighborhood to introduce your idea and gauge their level of interest.
  3. Seek the advice of professionals.  Talk to a program officer at a local foundation.  They are very familiar with the organizations in your community and can provide invaluable insight into unmet needs.  Your local legislators or their office managers are also great sources of information.   Talk to professionals in your industry and involve hem in your planning process.

20 Questions: Starting a Job as an Executive Director

  1. What will my legacy be with this organization?
  2. How will I have a positive local and global impact through my work with this organization?
  3. What are the strategic priorities of the organization?
  4. What is the complete and uncensored history of the organization?
  5. What are the community’s dreams for the future?
  6. How will I strengthen the organization’s relationships and open up new relationships?
  7. How is the board engaged in the work of the organization?
  8. How is the community engaged in the work of the organization?
  9. What do the staff, board, and volunteers need from me to be successful?
  10. What can I do to strengthen the organization’s processes?
  11. How will I promote the flow of information and ideas?
  12. How will I strengthen the organization’s fiscal position?
  13. How can I share my unique gifts and skills through this organization?
  14. How can I help others – staff, volunteers, program participants — make the most of their unique gifts and skills?
  15. What does our organization do well? How has it been successful in the past?
  16. What are our organization’s core competencies?
  17. What does our organization not do well? How has it be challenged in the past?
  18. What needs to be changed and what needs to be maintained or enhanced?
  19. Is the organization’s structure adequate to support the needs of the organization?
  20. What additional resources are needed to achieve the organization’s goals?

The People Pages: Marketing Basics

From The People Pages: Resources for Social Change (c) 2003 The Fruition Coalition

Marketing is the art of bringing like-minded people together to achieve common goals.  In nonprofit organizations, these people include program participants, donors, and volunteers.

Segmentation is the process of grouping people according to their demographics, interests, attitudes, motivation, social affiliations, and/or lifestyle.  For instance, you might segment your donors by amount/frequency of gifts, income/wealth, level of involvement in your organization, or age.  You could segment volunteers by type of service or educational background.  Segmentation will help you develop appropriate marketing strategies and tactics that appeal to and have meaning for your target markets, resulting in increased participation and contributions.

A target market is a segmented group of people that desires or needs your products and services.  Niche marketing satisfies an unmet need in the community in a unique way.

The Marketing Mix

Place is where your target market experiences, purchases, or consumes your product or service.

Product is the actual or perceived (‘image’) product or service that is offered to the public.

Price is the amount of time and money required to experience the product or service.

Promotion is the process of educating and exciting your target market about your products and services through advertising, public relations, sales, and promotions.

Marketing Channels are the personal or impersonal spaces that connect your organization with your target market.  Channels include your office, the Internet, email, mail, meetings, phone, stores, events, and publications.

Marketing Research can help you identify and gain a deeper understanding of characteristics of your target markets, community needs, competitive programs, and opportunities for innovation.  It can help you identify and investigate problems, assess a program’s impact, or measure the effectiveness of a campaign.  Primary research is original research designed, executed, tabulated, and analyzed for the first time.  Examples include surveys, interviews, experiments, observation, and focus groups.  Secondary research is already in existence; examples include census data or health statistics.  Qualitative data is descriptive in nature while quantitative data is concrete and can be interpreted as a number.

Use the Target Market Analysis Worksheet on the next page to take a closer look at the people who support your organization so that you can better understand and serve their needs.  Complete one sheet for donors, one for volunteers, and another for program participants.  Derive at least two distinct target market groups for each category.  Define each target market’s characteristics.  Develop a marketing mix that would be appropriate for each target market.

Marketing Planning is the process of analyzing your marketing program, setting goals for each target market, and developing an action plan to meet those goals.   Use the Marketing Planning Worksheet to put your marketing goals in writing and construct marketing strategies.

L3: Listen to your Intuition

Excerpt from Limitless Loving Leadership (ISBN 978-1-300-65933-4, 92 pages, $12.99)

Our souls gently whisper to us all the time. The gentle, delicate nature of those whispers can lead us to overlook or misunderstand their meaning. When we don’t pay attention, the whispers become louder before turning into screams. They travel from a spiritual, to an intellectual, to a physical level.

When we don’t pay attention to our intuition, G-d may try to get our attention in more magnificent ways that integrate all aspects of our being.

A few months ago I was getting ready for work when all of a sudden I had a vision/idea of leaders as a beekeeper. I thought a little about the analogy and then put it out of my mind, to be explored later. That night, I went to a ‘Heroines of the Bible’ class at a local Chabad center and the person we studied that night was Devorah. Her name literally means “the bee.” She and her husband made candles to share the light of G-d with other people. Then she was appointed the first female judge of the Israelites. Her leadership brought peace back to the land and instilled feminine values.

A few months later, I participated in a writing residency. One evening I went for a long walk and went just a bit further down the road than previous days. A little over a mile away from the house where I stayed, at my turnaround point in front of a church, I came across a beagle. It was skinny and collarless. When I approached him, he backed up as if scared. I turned around to walk back to the house and the beagle followed me. Eventually, he walked ahead of me. When I got back to the house, my housemate opened up the gate and the beagle ran out! He saw me and kept going, down the driveway, then down the road. The housemate said that the beagle was sitting with her for a few minutes. It’s almost as if he was leading me somewhere, or wanted to make sure I got home safely.

I decided to take a walk the next day, walking a different route than normal. I was half way across a bridge over the Tye River when I realized that I had walked into a swarm of bees. I looked up and there were at least a hundred, maybe two hundred bees swirling about. I turned around to walk back the other way because I was afraid to walk through the bees. When I turned around, the beagle was standing at the end of the bridge.

I definitely took this as a sign that I should continue to work on this blog series, then conceptualized as a book, and that it will follow Devorah’s legacy. When I have doubts about the purpose or potential impact of my writing, which I often do, I think of this profound spiritual experience and feel comforted as well as motivated.

Now that you think I’m certifiably insane, let me share something else that will blow your mind. Our gastrointestinal systems contain more neurons as our spinal cords. It is sometimes called our ‘second brain.’ Thus, our ‘gut feelings’ are biologically rooted.

When you feel something in your gut, it is likely a sign that something is very right or very wrong. Trust and seek to understand your intuition, then act accordingly. Our intuition makes accumulated wisdom accessible to us in a highly efficient way. Take advantage of this wondrous opportunity.

The People Pages: Fundraising Planning

from The People Pages: Resources for Social Change (c) 2003 The Fruition Coalition

The fundraising planning process ensures that your organization has substantial funding to meet its program and service goals.  A fundraising plan should be developed and put in writing at least once a year.  Because actual funding can vary greatly from that which was planned, especially in the case of grants, it is important to constantly review and revise the fundraising plan.  The plan should be developed by the Board of Directors under the direction of the Executive Director with input from program, fundraising, and administrative staff.

  • Review and recommit to your mission and vision.  All fundraising activity should support and further your organization’s vision and mission.
  • Plan and develop programs.  Set measurable and realistic service goals for each program.  Ask program staff for input regarding successes and challenges, as well as ideas for implementing change.
  • Create a budget for each program and an operational budget.  Identify how much money will have to be raised this year.
  • Conduct a situational analysis of your fundraising program.  Analyze each fundraising area, including grants, special events, membership, annual campaign, and planned giving.  List each area’s internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats.  Create a vision of where you would like each fundraising area to be at the end of next year.
  • Set fundraising goals.  Set financial goals for each fundraising area.  Classify donors according to their ability and likelihood to give and estimate each group’s total donations. Break down each fundraising goal into tasks and assign tasks to volunteers and staff.  Communicate responsibilities and expectations.  Make sure you will have enough cash on hand to implement the fundraising plan.
  • Assess existing donors. Determine what ways existing donors should be asked to give and participate in your organization’s activities this year.  Review your database and make sure that mailing, phone, and email lists are accurate and up to date.  Review written files of major donors.
  • Research new opportunities for funding.  Identify individuals, corporations, businesses, and foundations that will be approached for funding in the coming year.
  • Match potential funders with financial goals.  Decide how each program will be funded.   Determine how administrative expenses will be paid for.
  • Implement your fundraising plan.  Design and develop promotional materials, establish points of contact, and educate new and existing donors about your organization, your accomplishments, and your goals.
  •  Monitor the results of the plan.  Follow up with staff to make sure tasks are completed.  Compare the actual results of fundraising campaigns to the projected income. Revise the plan as needed.