One political cartoon after Barbara Bush’s death illustrated a sailboat named, The Bush Family. Near it, a detached rudder labeled Barbara Bush floated away.
This is not an article about politics.
It’s a post about the necessity of dealing with inspecting and if necessary, replacing, upgrading, and otherwise improving your nonprofit rudder.
The cartoon brought to mind two recent conversations with executive directors with rudder problems.
The first conversation was about a lost rudder. The organization’s founders convinced a local foundation to fund their new nonprofit. Now the foundation was moving on to other new ventures. The CEO needed a long-term replacement rudder.
The second conversation was with a CEO that served a nonprofit with an undersized rudder. They sailed in a community undergoing a population shift. The shift caused a loss of government support. This loss increased their yearly operating deficit to $400,000. Their rudder had severe stress cracks.
You attach rudders, as you know, to the back of sailboats. You use them to steer the boat to catch the wind to reach your destination. In a nonprofit, a rudder, dear readers, is not your mission. It’s the technique you use to capture revenue to move toward your vision.
To remain viable, you must catch resources. A theatre, for instance, selects from thousands of plays. It develops its season around a theme to hook audience interest. Even if the mission is to be extremely provocative, the artistic team still selects shows that fill seats.
Losing revenue or finding a rudder inadequate midstream is traumatic. Forward movement stalls. Your sails flap-snap in the wind. Sometimes you jibe. The boom tears across the cockpit, scaring everyone. Depending on the current, tide, and wind, you risk ending up on the rocks.
Income challenges come with the territory. Once effective strategies wear out and no longer work. Winds change. Tactics turn out to be undersized as conditions change. Sometimes the rudder’s fine, but the operators need better skills.
People hire me to help them figure out how to build and rebuild income strategies to catch more wind. One organization dependent on government money wanted help obtaining corporate sponsorships. Another, needed to recondition their strategies for the three years. A third wanted to grow their skills to help their board fall in love with developing donors, and so on.
Inspect your rudder, that is, how you gain income. Is it in good working order? Is it sized correctly? Are you using it effectively? What will you do this quarter to keep your energy-gathering tool shipshape? Let me know what you discover.
For more answers, check out this Nonprofit CEO Library.
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