In the vernacular of Results Based Leadership developed under the auspices of the Annie E. Casey Foundation – asking staff to secure sustainable funding is trying to use a tactical solution to solve an adaptive problem. Again – it won’t work. And finally – using the imagery of Dan Heath, co-author of the NY Times bestselling book Switch, this is trying to direct the rider without motivating the elephant on which the rider sits. It is impossible to achieve lasting results.
During this meeting with Executive Directors, one group voiced frustration over trying to raise significant dollars in their small – and primarily rural community. They note that they just don’t have the large corporations or foundations from which they can secure dollars. In my experience, every community – regardless of size – finds a way to fund the philanthropic projects that it deems a priority. It is more an issue of political will than it is of having enough dollars to go around.
And so, the real problem these Executive Directors need to solve is: How do I build the political will in my community in order to secure long term funding for my organization. That is an adaptive problem; one requiring a change in behavior, attitude or culture.
a) Place your result statement at the center of the circle. In this case your result statement might say something like: “The work of our organization is a priority in this community as evidenced by the receipt of multi-year funding”. Spend the time needed to identify a strong results statement. The clearer and cleaner the statement, the better.
b) After placing your result at the center, the next step is to identify the sectors that you will need involved in order to reach your goal. Place these sectors on the outside of each pie slice.
c) And now the hard part begins. Within each sector identify the specific person who must be involved and place their name as close to the center near the results as possible.
d) Continue placing names in the sector by order of importance. Those who are most critical to your success are placed closer to the center of the circle while those who might be “nice to have” but aren’t critical are placed further from the center.
Step 2: Compare how your leadership team matches up to those sectors and individuals you identified as critical to achieving your result.
a) If you don’t have a significant overlap of the names and organizations involved in your partnership with those you identified as closest to the result in the above exercise, then you know what needs to happen. You have to find a way to bring people into your organization who can accelerate your ability to achieve the organization’s strategic and financial goals.
b) If, on the other hand, you do have a significant overlap between your leadership team and those you identified as needing to be involved – then you may have a problem of commitment.
The Aligned Contribution Matrix at left asses how a leader contributes to the organization through the development of relationships (the horizontal X axis) and how they contribute in actions leading to results (the vertical Y axis).
a) Create a numerical scale for the activities you want to rate your board members against in both the X and the Y axis categories. For example, on the X axis, a leader who is not connecting to others might be assessed as a one while a leader who successfully recruits others to the effort might be rated as a five on a scale of one to five.
b) Plot each leader and see where they land on the matrix. This will give you a good visual of where your board sits in terms of how their contributions align to the goals of the organization. The ideal would be to have a number of board members in the “High-High” quadrant of the matrix; high on building relationships and high on taking action contributing to results.
Step 4: Hold Courageous Conversations with the Board. Unless the Executive Director is that rare individual who comes to the position after serving in a high profile career such as a mayor or high ranking public official, a philanthropists, or a successful businessman, he or she doesn’t have the community stature to pick up a phone and secure large, multi-year donations. This can only be done by community leaders. And that is the courageous conversation the Executive Director needs to have with his/her leadership. For example, the community leaders who initiated the work of Milwaukee Succeeds (a collective impact effort on education in Milwaukee) raised $1.8 Million in 2011 before one staff person was on board. And then four years later in 2015, the leaders of this effort raised an additional $5 Million to cover operational and strategic initiatives for the coming four years.
Leaders of organizations must make a commitment to raise multi-year funding. They can either raise the dollars themselves or they can help to open doors to others who can assist. Either way – the onus of raising sustainable funding is on the board. The Executive Director does have a role – but it is more of helping with logistics, providing materials and assisting with telling the story.
Perhaps, the most important role of the Executive Director in raising sustainable funding is in motivating and energizing the board to shoulder the task.