Category Archives: Dave Coffaro

2020 Vision: 3 Conversations to Have About the Future Today

David Coffaro
David Coffaro

Strategy Imagine it’s New Year’s Eve 2020. It’s getting close to midnight and under your breath, you say to yourself “I can’t believe the year went by so fast!”

You have a few quiet moments by yourself before gathering with family and friends to join the countdown to 2021, and you reflect back on highlights of the year that’s quickly coming to a close. You mentally run through some of your personal highlights: family, vacation, social gatherings, exciting events. Then like most leaders, you roll through scenes from your work life that stand out.

As you think back over 2020, what are the top two or three highlights that come to mind? What were the greatest contributions your team made to the success of your organization? Which activities that your team intentionally engaged in had the greatest impact toward fulfilling the company’s vision?

Right now, thinking about the completion of a year that hasn’t yet begun may seem far off in the future. This is the time of year when leaders are fine-tuning their financial plans and budgets for 2020 and generally focused on the question “How will we make our numbers next year?” The numbers question is important; we have to deliver expected financial results.

But numbers in isolation are simply a reflection of what’s already happened. They quantify results of the activities we’ve already completed and how effectively we executed upon them. They are not a picture of what we want to make happen. That’s where the vision thing comes into the conversation.

2020 Vision

As you think about the impact your organization will make in 2020 beyond the financial results you plan to create, consider revisiting the vision. Even if your organization’s vision has been more cosmetic than actionable, this is the perfect time for your team to delve into three strategic questions that can shape accomplishments in the upcoming year. These are three conversations about tomorrow for today:

Conversation No. 1

How well do our actions align with our company’s vision? This conversation requires a candid self-assessment of the vision to make sure it’s real and the team owns it. If there’s any doubt about true buy-in to the vision, an early strategic priority leading into 2020 is to invest leadership team time into redefining where you’re going. Vision sets an organization’s course and informs activities. 

What do we do (mission), why do we do it (purpose), and how do we fulfill our mission (strategy) are essential questions an organization must answer in order to define its place in the world. Taken together, the answers define an organization’s vision.

Conversation No. 2

What are the most important two or three strategic priorities we want to deliver beyond the expected financial results in 2020? With your vision as the guide, this conversation informs specific areas of impact your team will focus upon beginning now. Vision is irrelevant unless it informs priorities and those priorities define actions.

This conversation takes a deductive “if, then” approach: “if our No. 1 priority is acquiring and developing new talent, then we will _________”.  This conversation also leads to rich self-assessment of previously stated strategic priorities. If a team said their No. 1 priority last year was acquiring and developing talent, yet no specific actions were taken, it wasn’t really a priority.

Conversation No. 3

What are the areas in our organization we should be looking at for self-disruption? During the late 1990s tech boom, the concept of disruption grabbed the attention of the business world. New entrants in a market gave birth to novel ways of serving customers, gained share and changed industries. While disruption has become a core strategy, today the question is “where are there opportunities to self-disrupt?” 

This conversation invites your team to temporarily step outside their roles, look at the organization from a third-party observer perspective and ask the question “if we were starting this business from scratch today, how would we do it?” It requires temporarily letting go of legacy constraints and look at your operation the way a potential disruptor would see things, then challenge your organization to initiate self-disruption.

One of the greatest responsibilities we hold as leaders is driving continual evolution of the organization toward a well-defined future state. Today is the right day to begin these conversations about the 2020 vision your team wants to create. Today you can write scenes of the story you’ll look back to with great fulfillment on New Year’s Eve 2020.

Author: David Coffaro, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Changing Pies

David Coffaro
Dave Coffaro

As nonprofit development professionals know, there are many factors that influence charitable donations. Emotional connection to an organization’s mission, commitment to creating a better community, giving back to a charity that made a difference in someone’s life or tax deductions can all be influencers. Add to these internal motivations the external reality of economic conditions and you have an ever-changing environment informing development strategies.

Strategy as a Process, not an Event

Successful leaders know that their ability to adapt strategy as environments change is fundamental to sustaining a thriving organization. Reading the environment, interpreting temporary and longer-term structural changes and proactively adjusting approach are critical determinants of success.

Today, nonprofit leaders face an environmental shift in terms of fundraising. New preliminary IRS information, reported by MarketWatch this week (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/americans-slashed-their-charitable-deductions-by-54-billion-after-trumps-tax-overhaul-2019-07-09) indicates that as a result of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, taxpayers have itemized $54 billion less in charitable contributions so far this tax season compared to the previous year. These numbers could change as the IRS receives more tax returns (the agency expects a record 14.6 million tax return extension requests this year), but the headline corroborates what many nonprofits have been feeling over the past year of fundraising.

At first blush, this news suggests that nonprofits must now compete for a smaller pie of charitable giving. However, when we dig a little deeper, it may be that there are other pies available to get a bigger slice. Here are three specific ideas to contemplate as your organization considers refining and adapting its’ strategy:

  • Market the mission – Step into the shoes of the donor and ask “why would I contribute to your organization”. Tax benefits are one reason, but for most of your donors, there is some kind of emotional connection to your mission. The work your organization does every day resonates with the donor at some level, or they wouldn’t be one of your donors. This is a perfect time to revisit your mission, how you articulate it, your organization’s value proposition and how you message all of this through every medium to make sure the story is communicated the way it needs to be delivered.
  • Increase focus on corporations and foundations – Concurrent with the 1/1% decline in the dollar amount of donations from individuals, funds from corporations and foundations actually  increased (+5.4% from corporations and +7.3% from foundations). Translation – there’s still a lot of pie available; you just may have to look in different places to get what your organization needs. This is where the role of leaders comes into play in terms of refining strategy based on a changing environment.
  • Explore non-financial gifts – Beyond the 2017 tax law changes, one theory suggests that equity market volatility over the past year may be playing a role in individual giving. This behavioral finance explanation suggests that when capital markets are volatile, investors feel less confident, therefore more cautious about donating from their investment portfolios to charities. As an alternative, developing or expanding your organization’s focus on non-financial gifts – real estate, automobiles, oil, gas or mineral rights, specialty assets or artwork may be a way to enable your donors to support the mission in a manner that is more comfortable in the current market cycle.

Effective nonprofit strategy is on ongoing, dynamic process that continually recalibrates to its environment. This is a perfect time to revisit your organization’s strategy to see how it aligns with current reality, and the pies that are available to you.

Author: David Coffaro, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org