By Julie Holdaway

Published in the Orange County Register on July 15, 2013

Success for nonprofit organizations means matching big goals with specific strategies.

My favorite quote by Thoreau is about building "castles in the air" and "putting the foundations under them."

This idea – of dreaming big and building foundations – is the heart of fundraising. Universally, we nonprofits dream big.  Some of our missions include building vibrant communities, eradicating poverty and helping kids reach their potential.

While such dreams are the heart of fundraising, we also often fail to connect our big dreams to equally big fundraising strategies.  We assume that others just get it by intuition, and they understand why our mission – whatever it is – is so critical.

But intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without the use of reason; it's not a good fundraising strategy.

So, what is?

Start by painting a picture of your nonprofit's dream for would-be donors.  Then discuss the details, the specifics of how you are going to accomplish the dream.

Several years ago, The Wooden Floor changed its name from St. Joseph Ballet to The Wooden Floor. The new name allowed them the opportunity to share their dream: "The Wooden Floor is a place that inspires youth to thrive. It is a solid foundation from which kids can step absolutely anywhere they want."

Likewise, two years ago, the Volunteer Center became OneOC.  People asked us "Why OneOC?"  The answer was the name OneOC puts our dream out there, front and center. Our vision is to, together – as a community – build a vibrant community for all.

I am not suggesting every nonprofit run out and change its name. I'm just saying The Wooden Floor and OneOC developed strategies that let them lead with the dream.  Both groups also use multiple strategies to achieve their missions.

Edmund Hillary first dreamed of climbing Mt. Everst. Jonas Salk dreamed of eradicating polio. The dreams came first and were followed by strategies for achievement.

Jim Collins' research, in the well-known book "Built to Last," suggest that enduring organizations pursue "BHAGs," shorthand for Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals.  The key is to tie those dreams – or BHAGs – to strategies.

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