I’ve often written about the importance of planning in fundraising. You’ve heard it before, I’m sure–failing to plan is planning to fail. This goes for nonprofits for sure, but it also goes for the for profit sector as well. When organizations fail to anticipate or prepare, they may lose valuable momentum. It’s fundamental to any business that they meet customer expectations. It’s strategic planning that helps to avoid disastrous public relations.
This point was perfectly and, I’m sure, embarrassingly illustrated this past Sunday, April 5th, which just happened to be a kind of important day for the Chicago Cubs. It was Opening Day, after all.
If you’re a Cubs fan, as I am, or live in the Chicagoland area, you know all too well of the fiasco that occurred during the game. If you live elsewhere or don’t follow the Cubs closely, let me fill you in: the people who run the business side of baseball for the Cubs failed miserably on Opening Day in providing a very basic need for their fans — not enough working restrooms (toilets). As you doubtless know, the ballpark, which is the second oldest in all of baseball, has been undergoing renovations for some time. When it’s finally completed sometime in 2018, for all intents and purposes, it will be a new park.
That’s great and sorely needed for fans of the Northside team. But think about this for a moment: Opening Day is the biggest day on a team’s calendar unless it makes the World Series. H0w could the Cubs not have planned for enough restrooms (even porta-potties)? Block-long lines formed at the few stalls available, even before the game began. There were estimated waiting times of more than an hour.
Here’s a thought: If you know you’re going to be selling beer and other libations to over 40,000 people you also should know they’re going to need to go to the potty. Stories of people using paper cups, walls, and sewers to “alleviate the pressure” have already become legend in the Windy City.
There’s a lesson here for nonprofits, don’t you think? If you had 40,000 people coming to an event and failed to provide “a basic,” there’d be some explaining to do to someone, wouldn’t there be? After all, those 40,000 would be potential or current donors, board members, volunteers and other various forms of stakeholders in your organization.
If you are thinking, we’ve done pretty well without really having a plan other than do an appeal in the fall and maybe another in the spring, maybe you’ve been lucky. But accidental success is dangerous. Yes, succeeding without a plan is possible. But ask yourself this question: “Could we have grown and become even more successful if we’d been a little better organized?” I’ll bet the answer is “yes.”
Another danger is that the lack of a strategic plan negatively impacts the attitude of your team. Employees who see what I call aimlessness within an organization lack the sense of a greater purpose and greater purpose is what nonprofits are always striving to achieve, right? People need a reason to come to work everyday, beyond a paycheck.
It’s pained me to blog about this situation with the Cubs, believe me. I hope none of my White Sox friends see it, as a matter of fact. I am a true bleeder of Cubbie blue and I see really good things in the very near future for this team. But those of you on the business side of the team, come on–get a plan!
How about you? What is your plan to propel your nonprofit to even greater success?