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Plan Now for Future Success

By Kaitlin Berg

When it comes to fundraising, you likely envision golf outings, direct mail campaigns and any number of other efforts to raise money for scholarships. Of course, that’s what Dollars for Scholars is all about – funding student success. But have you ever considered investing in your Dollars for Scholars to ensure your organization is prepared to support local students well into the future? There may be funding available to help you do just that.

Oneonta Dollars for Scholars
Oneonta Dollars for Scholars Board Members

Oneonta Dollars for Scholars recently engaged in a strategic planning process that was funded by the New York Council of Nonprofits, Inc. (NYCON) through their Capacity Building Mini-Grant Program. The $1,500 grant covered the cost of a consultant’s fee, materials and modest refreshments. Now Oneonta Dollars for Scholars has a succession plan in place and documented processes and procedures that will enable them to fund future generations of scholars.

According to President David Brower, their capacity building initiative was born out of necessity: “Many of our board members are charter members so we knew that it was time to develop a succession plan. We wanted to harness the potential of all our members, building upon their knowledge and expertise, to become as strategically organized as possible.”

While their strategic planning process encompassed the development of a succession plan, they also set goals to increase their scholarship award amounts,  number of renewable scholarships, and students’ access to additional awards. The work of developing their strategic plan took about 18 months and the chapter found it helpful to have a facilitator to lead them through the process.

“It’s not always comfortable to ask ‘Why do we do things this way?’ and ‘Is this the most efficient way of operating?’ so it was great to have someone from outside our organization to facilitate those discussions,” Brower explained.

During the process, the chapter realized that they could enhance the efficiency of their board meetings by redefining their structure and fully utilizing committees to work on specific tasks, report back, and make recommendations at the board meetings. While it took a bit of getting used to, Brower was “pleased to see the leadership of the committees step up and take responsibility.”

“We have a great board and this has truly been a collective effort. As a result of the strategic plan, we’ve developed timelines for what we want to accomplish this year as well as longer-term goals. Each committee has a charge and we’re making progress through reasonable action items and manageable goals. It’s remarkable to see how the momentum is building as our goals gain traction.”

In short, the entire strategic planning effort of charting where they want to go, talking through issues, and decentralizing functions was a bonding experience for the board. It enabled more board members to step into leadership, have their voices heard, share ideas, and President Brower is confident that Oneonta Dollars for Scholars is poised to “survive and thrive in the future.”