INK Consulting Blog

INK Consulting’s mission is to help nonprofit organizations realize the potential of all relationships. INK combines hands-on experience, strategic thinking and a healthy view of the big picture to help nonprofits create an organizational culture of concentrating on what really drives mission success: relationships.

Painting a (Relationship) Picture


Anyone that knows me is probably chuckling right now that I am writing a post titled painting a picture. Lucky for you, I’m not talking about a real picture. I don’t have an ounce of artistic skill in my body.

Like I said in my last post, shifting to become a relationship mindset organization starts with believing. Your organization has to believe that relationships will achieve the mission. Your organization has to believe that money is not the only way to achieve the mission. After you believe, two important steps come next.

  1. Your organization has to look at the big picture and recognize what various people can offer toward achieving the mission. Donors are not the only people who matter.
  2. Your organization has to engage people to achieve the mission.

I’ll say this over and over and over and over and over again… I truly believe that relationships mean everything for nonprofits.

To achieve your mission, you need people. You need people who are willing to help you put in the effort to help you achieve your mission. You need people who are committed to donating their time to help you achieve your mission. You need people who are willing to invest money in your efforts. You need a staff to help keep all the parts moving. Nonprofits must have relationships — connections, associations, involvement. And you have to make it emotional to build a lasting relationship. These enduring, lasting relationships will make a difference in how your organization views the strategies needed to achieve your mission. Simply stated: nonprofits need people to succeed.

For so long, nonprofits have been so good at the donor-centric model. Generally speaking, nonprofits know what to do with donors. I think it is safe to assume that in most nonprofits, there is likely (at a minimum) an annual strategy for acquisition or retention as well as an annual strategy for saying thank you. Sure, there are lots of things that many nonprofits could improve with the donor-centric model, but I think it is a safe bet to say that most nonprofits are “comfortable” in this arena.

I’m not here to say that donors are not important. No, no, no. Don’t misinterpret my words. What I’m saying is that donors are one piece of the very large puzzle of relationships that contribute to mission success for nonprofits.

This line of thinking is new territory for nonprofits. Uncharted waters. Your GPS is broken. Changing an organization’s mindset to become relationship-focused vs. donor-focused is a culture shift.

Not so simple, I know. I’ve been there, done that and I hear ya. Loud and clear.

I’m working with United Way of Greater Los Angeles to help them on their journey to become a relationship centric organization. They are making great strides. Really, really, really big strides. Recently, we did a draft sketch of what this shift looks like for their organization in order to communicate this to their staff members. You’ll see the “relationship belief statements” featured prominently in the middle. Becoming relationship centric has both internal and external components, and neither is mutually exclusive.

If nothing else, I hope that this post inspires you to think outside of the donor box. You might be asking yourself, “who else should I be focusing on besides donors? I would say that this is variable by nonprofit. You have to consider your mission, your customers, your community. Don’t worry; I’ll talk about this in the future too.


2 thoughts on “Painting a (Relationship) Picture

  1. Continued great stuff, Shannon. Way to go! You know that we advocate and support your approach to RM – and it’s great to see you doing wonderful things on the West Coast. Keep it up!!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Craig! I appreciate all that you have done to help me along my journey. All the best to Clarity Group!

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