Through my experience growing a network of support for Community MusicWorks, I came to embrace the phrase "resource development mindset." Professionals use different words (e.g. fundraising, development, marketing, sales) to refer to aspects of the continuous effort to identify, cultivate, solicit, and steward all of the varied resources that are necessary to make the work of the organization possible. Here, I want to focus on the idea of a possible mindset that guides this effort.
At CMW, my mindset was based on two perceived truths: 1. everyone and everything presents a resource development opportunity, and 2. relationships can most easily begin by inviting people in and by offering them something of value.
Resource development is all about building relationships. It's important to note that these are strategic relationships, created intentionally in order to gather a community of support. The essential work is to initiate, build, and maintain the organization's relationships. With a resource development mindset, this means becoming aware of where relationships can lead and how they may potentially support the mission of the organization. Unfortunately, there's not enough time in the day to treat every relationship equally, and therefore a certain degree of hierarchy is necessary--prioritizing your attention with extreme sensitivity. These are relationships, after all!
A favorite metaphor for the mindset of relationship building is a gardener tending to his small plot of land with a watering can. Seeds are planted and carefully watered. With enough careful watering, small green shoots sprout. Soon enough, with patience, he can expect flowers to bloom. He enjoys and appreciates their beauty and fragrance while it lasts. After they wilt, there is still work to be done: pruning, raking, tidying, and generally readying the plot for the next season. Typically, this pattern follows an annual cycle , just as it does at a nonprofit organization.
Now imagine that the size of the garden expands over several years to contain more (and more varied) plants than the gardener can effectively maintain on his own. This is when infrastructure needs to be put in place (a sprinkler system? an additional gardener or two?) in order to be sure that each of the plants receives the specific care that it needs in order to reach its full potential.
In the case of the nonprofit organization, infrastructure needs are straightforward, starting with a database to document the details of all of the individual "plants" over time. An annual development plan, including a calendar of specific actions and activities for the entire year, helps the "gardener" stay on track. Still, these are relationships and they are most likely to grow and flourish through truly personal (meaning face-to-face) interactions. This is where the prioritization comes in, and hopefully some additional manpower as the organization is able to afford it. If you have two hundred annual supporters, who are the twenty-five people that you are going to be sure to meet with in person? I'm picturing the gardener roaming up and down the rows of flower beds, watering can in hand, strategically seeking out those few special plants that require his personal attention in order for them to be able to flourish...
Thinking about newly launched community-based initiatives, how might an individual artist--without the benefit of an organization's infrastructure--effectively maintain a resource development mindset? What is the grassroots version of the database and the annual development plan? We'll be focusing on this challenge later in the year.
Sharing excerpts of the learning happening in "Building a Community-Based Residency"