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Fund Development Committee - White Paper

Fund Development Committee - White Paper

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Published by JessieX
I wrote this document after being inspired by a committee meeting in which Harry identified that ACS was "valuable, but not essential."
I wrote this document after being inspired by a committee meeting in which Harry identified that ACS was "valuable, but not essential."

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Published by: JessieX on Nov 27, 2010
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12/14/2010

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January 5, 2010ACSThis is a difficult document to write.And it will, most likely be, a difficult document to read and absorb.But it is an important document at an important time. And, so therefore, we ask that you openyour mind to the information and perspectives offered here. Not that you have to agreewholesale. Or buy into all the conclusions or concepts. As a board member, and as onetasked with the responsibility to help not only steer ACS during your tenure on the board, butalso to create a viable future for the organization and the community in which we serve, it isimportant that we take an assessment of where we stand. And what we may well be facing incoming years and, perhaps, in the coming decade and then some.This document is written primarily from the perspective of the Fund Development Committeeand its mission, yet will naturally touch on many aspects of ACS as a whole. Frommembership services, to communications, to community engagement, our value propositionand mission, marketing, education and staffing needs.ACS has, as we all know, a long history of goodwill, good work and good relations with itsmember organizations, key influencers and the community at large. This has been true for 40years. ACS has grown with the population growth and changing needs of Howard County inthe past 40 years and has adapted to serve its member organizations and provide value. Allof this is true.And, yet, it’s not enough to go forward.Even more so, the organization is endangered if the board and staff believe that this rich andwell-earned history and goodwill is enough to carry us through difficult times and into achanging and dynamic future. A future in which many signs point to a need for ACS to bestronger, more capable and more connected and relevant to its member organizations andthe community at large than ever before.In order to become that organization, able to support its community by supporting itsmembers in a relevant and valuable way, a most honest and reflective confronting of reality isneeded.
 
The first and most important aspect in confronting reality is that the dominant perception of our organization in the community is that
ACS is a valuable but
not 
essential organization
.This perception undeniably affects our revenue in that we rely heavily on membership dues,and if we are perceived as valuable but not essential, then when our member organizationsneed to trim their own budgets, ACS membership is an easy item to cut.The second most important aspect in confronting reality is that
we can
become
not only morevaluable but absolutely essential
to member organizations, key influencers, the local media,organizations’ clients, service providers and community members.The third most important aspect of confronting reality is that
we probably cannot do it with ourcomposition current board and current staff.
No changes need to be made today. But, if wechoose as an organization to become more valuable and absolutely essential, it is most likelythat a scan of the board and staff three years from now will look significantly different.These are the most painful, the most true and -- perhaps -- the most encouraging. We areperceived as essential, we can become essential and we can start today, and we’re going tohave to make changes in who WE are as an organization.Here are some other points to ponder when confronting reality.
Mid-life crisis
As a 40-year old organization, we are at a natural point of renewal and regeneration. Thecore “city” of Howard County is facing similar challenges. Not to advocate for one vision or another of what Columbia should become, but more to point to the phenomenon that it isnatural for an organization, place and -- especially -- person to have to face who they are intheir early 40s. The gift of the mid-life crisis is to be able to look upon a past and decide whathas been valuable, to look upon the present and confront reality about exactly where youstand now, and to decide into the last half of life who you want to be. Inside of that questionit is important to answer what you want to take from your past, what you want to discard andwhat you need to gain/get/become in order to live the second half of your life as you want.This is a natural cycle and ACS is in such a mid-life crisis at this point in time.
Deep cultural shifts
The cultural shift that is occurring at this point is more significant and impactful on power structures, information sharing, alliances and values than most people are able to currentlygrasp. The thinking, style and methods of successful collaboration and organizationaleffectiveness that worked from the mid-80s to the mid 00s is losing steam. New cultural
 
preferences, communication styles, approaches to information sharing and alliances areemerging. These are not personality issues. These are cultural changes that are becomingmore predominant and are likely to cycle up and become the status quo within three yearsand to stay as such for another 10-12 years after that. ACS is woefully in need of an imagemake-over. Our nice but not essential (or relevant to the times) vibe is communicated in our marketing, communications and branding in a way that can no longer be ignored.
A new generation of leadership
Connected to both ACS’s 47-year tenure and the deep cultural shifts emerging is the obviousand impacting effect of a new strata of organizational leaders, media, service providers andkey influencers in the community. Whether its Barbara Lawson leaving The ColumbiaFoundation after XYZ years, or long-time advocate Susan Rosenbaum of Citizen Servicesretiring, what’s obvious -- and part of the natural cycle -- is that relationships in which ACS hasearned its standing over many years of service and activity are disappearing. And the newclass of community leaders may, or may not, share a similar feeling of warmth and care for ACS. And while individual staff members and board members have reached out to newexecutive directors and points of contact at a number of organizations this approach is not along-term solution for a near-term problem: ACS has much more to do in communicating our value and essentialness to the community, the media and new organizational leaders.
Economic pressures
While it’s absolutely true that most, if not all, health-and-human-service provider organizations in the county have seen their budgets decrease in the last 12 months or more, itis hardly an excuse for our organization’s revenue to decrease. If anything our membershipshould be soaring. But it can’t today. And it can’t now because the truth is we are a valuablebut not essential organization.
The myth of the recovery
Regardless of economic predictions by pundits and the general conversation amongneighbors, colleagues, financial advisors, blogs or wherever else you get your information,the concept of an economic recovery is, for now, just a concept. It is not a guarantee. It is noteven likely. And it doesn’t have a certified, money-back promise to bail you out if it doesn’tarrive by the date you’re hoping it does. If anything, it’s a myth. Vague talk of something thatmight happen. Worse, it belies that the problems coming may be twice as worse. Or ten timesas worse in the coming decade. For ACS to create any plans -- or 
not 
to take action today --based on assuming this “recovery” will occur anytime in the next decade is folly. If it doesoccur, we’ll be all the better for it. But there won’t be much of an organization and ACS willlikely have lost even more “essentialness” if we act as though we our revenue will increase intandem with said recovery.

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