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By: Delia Coleman, Forefront
I’m really excited to be a part of ACN’s Annual Meeting and celebration of the sector – this has been a tough year for the nonprofit sector and any day spent sharing our successes and learning from each other is an important one. But our successes don’t exist in a vacuum. Our gutsy wins exist in an openly hostile budget environment, a competitive field, and within a city and state struggling with big problems.
And that’s the environment we already know about. What about the issues the sector is only just barely aware of? How are we supposed to get ready for those? What are the strategic decisions our sector, and individual organizations, are going to be forced to make?
And what if we could anticipate those decisions and prepare now?
While the primary external factor for Chicago nonprofits today has been around funding and budgets, there are other issues looming in the distance: the further privatization of services, nonprofits losing out to for-profit providers, the cultural taboo against talking publicly about mergers & acquisitions (or other types of strategic partnerships) while outside pressure mounts for the sector to do more work with fewer resources.
These outside pressures force a moment for our sector. It’s not a moment to rethink our purpose, no. We are still here to turn places into communities through education, healthcare, arts and culture, youth development, protecting our environment, or caring for the most at risk. But perhaps it is time to think about what place-making and community-strengthening need to look like in a future that is rapidly approaching. Our programs, our partners, our business models – all of this may need to look and perform differently if we are going to remain the invisible hand holding up our communities.
Maybe we won’t be so invisible, then. And then things can really start changing.
These success stories at your Annual Meeting are more than success stories – they’re bellwethers for a sector that needs to find a way to move nimbly from mere Survival and Sustainability to Thriving in a highly competitive environment.
I can’t wait to see these stories grow and take root. I hope I’ll see you there.
Delia Coleman Vice President, Strategy & Policy Forefront
By: Theresa Lipo, Philanthropy Consulting
For any consultant, generating and following up on leads sometimes takes a back seat to doing client work; after all, it “makes sense” to focus on customers that are currently paying you! But at ACN’s fall program, “The Nitty Gritty Details of Running a Consulting Practice,” ACN Member Bonnie Massa reminds us that lead generation must be a scheduled and essential part of our workday. Without leads in the pipeline, a consultant can become too reliant on individual clients and without a pool to sustain business if one client should disappear.
As one of our program facilitators, Bonnie provided participants with four essential steps to successful lead generation:
Know Your Customer: who are the clients that satisfy you the most? What industry are they in and what are their characteristics (size, structure, service area, etc.)? Conversely, what have been your most unproductive or unsuccessful client relationships? Identify yours and determine if they share characteristics that will help you decide what time of clients you want to avoid in the future. The result of these exercises will be your prospect profile.
Find “Look-a-Likes”: With your new customer profile, you can now go and seek out organizations that are similar in characteristics. Finding them is easy – go back and determine how you found your clients to dateand won their business. Affinity groups, social media, and old-fashioned one-on-one networking are the best ways to identify look-a- -like clients.
Reach out and Touch: Now that you’ve found them, how do you reach organizations that might need your services? First, compose an “elevator speech” that tells potential clients what you do and who you do it for. Make it specific, compelling, and focused on their needs: Rather than saying that you raise money for mid-size nonprofits, tell potential clients that you help youth-focused organizations identify and secure federal government funding. Second, get your name out there. LinkedIn is essential as are other social media platforms, but only as long as you work to remain active by writing blogs or newsletters, participating in webinars, and commenting on relevant professional articles. These activities will get you noticed online and lead to referrals in your field.
Track Activities and Results: Make lead generation a regular part of your work schedule by tracking your activity and successes with customer relationship management (CRM) software – or even a simple Excel spreadsheet.
Integrated into these activities is your Key Performance Indicator or the number of leads you need in the pipeline to ensure that your business continues to thrive and grow. By using the steps above, you can ensure that you reach your target by making lead generation a regular and essential part of your business.
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