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Fundraising Nonprofit Wednesday Whimsy

Alignment, Plans, Priorities are Not Results

After a break for moving from Florida to the Adirondacks for summer and fall, I am back with weekly blogs. My entry this Wednesday muses on how easy it is to ignore results in the language we use to distribute and use charitable giving.

Here is the first item in the Donor Bill of Rights published by AFP-the Association of Fundraising Professionals:

To be informed of the organization’s mission, of the way the organization intends to use donated resources, and of its capacity to use donations effectively for their intended purpose.

Note how far this departs from a right to see that a difference was made.

To be fair, the focus on mission and service delivery almost always speaks to values and activities, not accomplishments. Consider the credit or requirements in these statements:

  • A program is aligned with the organization’s mission.
  • The organization partners with other organizations.
  • The organization has an updated fundraising and strategic plan.
  • Needs addressed are fully understood, including great attention to local communities and residents.
  • Services are delivered to those for which they are intended.
  • Expenditures with a variance of 10% or more from the budget are pre-approved.
  • Interim and final reports are submitted on time.

Here’s the whimsey: these strictures apply equally to high and low-performing organizations and programs! Internal alignment, many
partners, and timely completion of reports are lousy predictors of high achievement. And low performing groups are as likely to have a strategic plan on file (not to mention a Logic Model or Theory of Change if required) as high-performing ones. Here’s another statement I hear frequently: the organization is clear on its goals and its priorities. Having priorities and achieving within them are two different things. At best, one is the floor and the other the ceiling.

See you next week.