Is it Time to Upgrade or Replace Your Revenue Strategy?

Man on the edge of sailing boatA 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 inspecting and, if necessary, replacing, upgrading, and improving your nonprofit rudder.

The cartoon brought two recent conversations with executive directors with rudder problems to mind.

The first conversation was about a lost rudder–sort of.

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 for the funds that had been giving them direction– a new rudder.

A second conversation was with a CEO that served a nonprofit with an undersized rudder.

This nonprofit’s leader was sailing 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 from overuse and was in danger of falling off.

Rudders and Income

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 how you capture revenue to move toward your vision.

To remain viable, you move towards your goals.

A theatre, for instance, selects from thousands of plays. It develops its season around a theme to hook the audience’s interest. Even if the mission is to be edgy, the artistic team still selects shows that fill seats going to the edge but not over it– to survive.

Losing revenue or finding an inadequate rudder 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 winds, you risk ending up on the rocks.

Income challenges come with the territory.

Once effective strategies wear out and no longer work. Rudder wears out. Winds change. Tactics turn out to be undersized as conditions change.

People hire me to help them figure out how to build and rebuild income strategies to catch more wind and help them plan their fundraising. One organization dependent on government money sought needed corporate sponsors. Another needed to grow their donor base. A third wanted to grow their skills to help their board fall in love with developing donors, and so on.

Your Challenge

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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Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis Consulting guides executive directors and CEOs to generate the resources, boards, and support they need to make remarkable progress on their missions. As the award-winning thought-leader, advisor, and founding principal of Karen Eber Davis Consulting, Karen helps nonprofit leaders get answers, generate revenue, and grow their mission. Davis is known for her innovation and practicality based on her work with or visits to over 1,000 nonprofit organizations and her experience leading board and team events. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.