A few months ago, I had the pleasure of joining a panel at IEDC’s Annual Conference in Atlanta where my role was to speak about the preparation work that Chambers and EDOs should undertake BEFORE launching a funding campaign. I focused on the importance of taking the time to develop a multi-year strategy that casts a vision for the organization and the community in collaboration with private and public sector investors and partners. The plan developed should offer strategies to address some of the community’s and economy’s biggest opportunities and most challenges and provide a mechanism for tracking progress towards desired outcomes. This will be the foundation on which you base your future funding campaign.
Furthermore, I stressed the importance of then enlisting an independent third-party firm to take the newly developed strategy to market to test its relevancy with a core group of leaders from the private and public sectors, many of whom will be likely “priority prospects” during a funding campaign. I shared that the typical model is to utilize CONFIDENTIAL interviews and focus groups, led by the consultant without the client present, as the vehicle to engage with these leaders in order to provide them with an opportunity to provide constructive feedback. At RDG, we call this assessment a Concept Audit. During this phase we seek to:
Obtain feedback on how the organization (our client) is perceived to be performing
Confirm the local economy’s most pressing challenges
Attain reactions to the new strategy and desired outcomes
Test the financial capacity of potential investors, and determine a funding goal
Identify leadership for the future funding campaign
The data obtained during this process proves invaluable for building a campaign road map and determining the appropriate organizational positioning that will ensure the greatest level of success, not only for the funding campaign, but also for the organization as a whole for years to come.
Speaking on panels at IEDC and ACCE is always enjoyable, but my favorite part is the one-on-one discussions afterwards. This presentation yielded some really interesting comments. I listened to frustrated individuals that had been through funding campaigns in the past, but had brought their fund development in-house, treating it almost like an annual fund. While that had worked to a point, they shared that they had been “stuck” at about the same level of private sector funding for years, or worse, are now experiencing a gradual loss of investors and dollars. Listening to the panel reminded them of the value of refreshing their strategy every three to five years with input from their private and public sector partners.
It also reminded them of the vital role that consultants can play in “teeing-up” a successful funding effort.
While it may run counter to what you might think, it is to your advantage for your investors to go through a gut-check occasionally to reaffirm the EDO’s or Chamber’s value to the community and their organization. The absolute worst-case scenario for you is that your organization becomes just another line item on a company’s budget spreadsheet that no one thinks about. That translates eventually to less engagement, and stagnant or lower investment levels. Going through the two-phase process described earlier reinforces that your organization is providing a valuable service that is worthy of not only their dollars, but also their sweat equity. That is how you appropriately prepare for a funding campaign, and how you also fully optimize dollars available in the market for your Chamber or EDO.
Have questions about RDG’s Concept Audit process? Check