Lessons from the field

Kjerstin Erickson who was the founder of an NGO called FORGE blogs regularly on SocialEdge.org about her organization, sharing how it is to work in the field. Currently they are in a dire situation and I guess almost all her energy goes into figuring out how to turn it around.

In her last post she gives her analysis of why they got into a financial crunch that they are in. There were two things that came into my mind in what she wrote.

One of them is that they didn’t have their source of revenue secured once they went into an organizational change that would refocus their fund-raising efforts. From my yet limited experience this is one lesson that I have learnt – always make sure that the financial bottom-line is covered, if nothing else works properly this will at least allow you to survive. Often you will feel that there is a “pipeline” of potential deals, but unless you have a very structured sales/fund-raising process probably this pipeline is worth very little. I have learnt to not trust the pipeline, as it often leads you into a false sense of security.

Secondly, many organizations are very naive about the information systems & websites. Online marketing is a serious challenge which requires a lot of knowledge and investment. Furthermore, she points to visitor numbers which is for sure an important metric – but an even more important one is conversion rates, how profitable they can make their website? (where “profit” can be measured both in raised awareness and donations)

Yet again, it seems to me, from the very little information I have, that a great infusion of a more business like mindset would be useful for them to grow and prosper.

I am, however,  really impressed by her openly sharing like this and I wish her all the luck in successfully completing her organizational transformation, I think that she seems like an amazing individual and that the organization is strong and delivering results so the change should definitly be possible to complete and deliver on.

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