RIP, Strategic Plan

It puts Post-its on the wall. It does this whenever the consultant tells it.

Strategic Plan, 104, died September 24, 2020 in Bemidji, MN, with 12.3 million nonprofit staffers by its side. A socially distanced memorial service was held Thursday evening at an outdoor park. The space was generously gifted, in-kind, by Minnesota Forest Resources Partnership — a 501(c)(3) parks conservancy that is still waiting for its tax receipt.

Strategic Plan was born in France as “Administration Industrielle et Générale” (or “General and Industrial Management“) in 1916, the lovechild of James Henri Fayol, the father of modern management (Candy & Gordon, 2011). As a youth, Strategic Plan was largely misunderstood, even after being translated to English in 1949. For many decades, its societal benefit was not fully realized, until the mid-1980s when large and small nonprofit organizations alike began spending ample time in board meetings discussing how they could spend even more time visioning and ideating about the future.

Strategic Plan was at its best when holed up in executive hotel conference rooms — over the course of at least three half-day sessions — led by an inexperienced consultant who was strongly suggested/recommended by the board president. As a young adult, it was inquisitive and full of potential; its closest friends knew it as “ambitious,” “bold,” and “a giant waste of the staff’s time.” As it aged, its goals became even more ambitious and bold, and it took on the role of really drilling down into how we can turn these challenges into opportunities.

Over the past ~40 years, Strategic Plan was involved with many NPOs who could find the extra capacity-building funding in their budgets, particularly those whose missions center on “transforming the community we [sic] serve through meaningful outreach and engagement.” Its interests included buy-in from stakeholders, being printed on premium 32lb high-gloss paper, and a strong understanding of just how the heck we’re going to fundraise for all these priorities.

Strategic Plan is survived by its spouse, Development Plan. Though estranged, Strategic Plan is also survived by Colored Post-it Notes Affixed To Larger Post-it Notes. It was preceded in death by S.W.O.T. analysis.

Instead of donations, the family asks for those with means to talk with their local community foundation about creating as many low-activity donor-advised funds as possible, with the hope that one day some of those funds will be directed to at least one actual nonprofit.

How to Hire Your Next Nonprofiteer

We scoured the Internet* for the most solid advice on how to seek, hire, and onboard new staff at your organization. Those best practices are distilled below in an easy-to-follow action plan which we hope is most useful.

  • STEP 1: Have as many people as possible write the job description (JD). Do not copy-edit the JD before posting it on the web. Also make sure the contact information goes to a generic e-mail for which nobody has the password, and definitely include the phrase: “No phone calls, please.” It is best to avoid any mention of salary or other compensatory details.
  • STEP 2: Once you have have received a cluster of applications, delete the job posting and discard all materials; do not contact applicants to let them know.
  • STEP 3: Wait three months and repost a similar job with a slightly downgraded title. Accept applications for no less than six months.
  • STEP 4: Discard all résumés which are longer than one page, and schedule initial interviews with everyone whose last name has three-or-more syllables. Do not communicate anything with unselected candidates.
  • STEP 5: Wait three more months.
  • STEP 6: Follow up with the two candidates who appear to have brushed their hair for the initial interviews, and invite them to complete an organizational exercise which will take no less than 20 hours of their time. The end result should be a presentation for your organization’s full staff and board, which will require at least two dozen e-mails to schedule.
  • STEP 7: Wait an additional three months.
  • STEP 8: Extend an offer, but make it nearly impossible for the candidate to fully understand the full compensation/benefits/vacation package.
  • STEP 9: Once accepted, set a tentative first day** and provide most (but not all) of the details on how to access e-mail, phone, network, and other resources.
  • STEP 10: In seven months when the incumbent resigns, begin this process over from STEP 1.

* It was more like a cursory glance at a couple Wikipedia entries
** Given the nature of the pandemic, make this as obscure and difficult as possible

RIP, Virtual Fundraising Event

Virtual Fundraising Event, 23, died July 25, 2020 in Whynot, North Carolina with 95,400 nonprofit fundraisers by its side. A memorial service was held Tuesday afternoon via Instagram Live, because nobody could figure out how to get it working on WebEx, and our admin was taking a personal day.

Virtual Fundraising Event was born as “Online Crowdfunding Campaign” in 1997, the lovechild of progressive rock band Marillion and the Internet. As a youth, Virtual Fundraising Event moved frequently around the World Wide Web until 2008, when it became entangled in a torrid throuple with MySpace and PayPal. For the next dozen years, it really came of age until the entire flippin’ planet was struck by a highly transmittable, novel respiratory virus.

Virtual Fundraising Event was at its best in spring/summer 2020, where people would use HDMI cables to interface laptops with big-screen TVs in their living rooms so they could see overzealous, poorly prepared event co-chairs streamed live with bad lighting and hokey messages about “wishing we could all be together in person if not for this gosh darn international health crisis.” But people were not dissuaded, because, now more than ever, Nonprofit XYZ really needs financial support, which is why this sacred cow gala event was hastily thrown together on Zoom, accompanied by a cold sandwich delivered (freaky fast) from Jimmy John’s. It had nothing to do with the fact they were lazy with fundraising the first half of the fiscal year.

Though it lived a storied life, Virtual Fundraising Event succumbed to the simultaneous strain of a global pandemic, online meeting fatigue, and the rising cost of in-home Wi-Fi. As it closed its eyes for the last time, Virtual Fundraising Event whispered, “Don’t forget to click the link at the bottom of this page so you can visit our easy-to-use online auction! We have some really great items this year — and if you miss the link, don’t worry, we’ll e-mail it to you several dozen times before the week is over.”

Virtual Fundraising Event is survived by its siblings, DonorPerfect and Facebook Fundraiser. Though estranged, it is also survived by its cousin, Text-to-Give. It was preceded in death by Telethon.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to be made to your favorite charity through their website, with the hope you will cough up the additional 3% to cover the online processing/transaction fee.