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Stewardship powers success at Power to Be

Posted by SVP Vancouver

For Executive Director Tim Cormode and the team at Power To Be, success is defined by the relationships that contribute to an organization’s mission and culture. Stewarding those connections is the key to the non-profit’s fundraising successes, which include revenue of $1.9 million in 2014 and a fundraising goal of $2.5 million in 2015.

On May 15, Tim was the guest speaker at SVP’s Investee Forum – an opportunity for Investees to connect, share and learn. At the forum – titled Stories of Success and Non-Profit Best Practices – Tim shared valuable advice, lessons learned, and a good dose of wisdom from 17 years of charity work as the founder of Power to Be, whose mission is to provide people with barriers access to nature and outdoor recreation.

SVP typically invests in early stage non-profits to help them build organizational capacity and strengthen sustainability. Many SVP Investees share a common challenge: they are experiencing rapid growth, yet struggle to meet community demand due to lack of fund development.

Power To Be’s strategy focuses on foundation and corporate donations, rather than government funding. By creating opportunities that benefit the organization and the donor, Power To Be is able to see a return of $3.80 for every dollar spent on fundraising.

“As an organization, we are truly grateful for the support that we have,” Tim says. “That gratitude is instilled within our culture and is at the heart of our fundraising successes.”

Tim has been involved in youth work and the non-profit sector for nearly 30 years and founded Power To Be in 1998. Building on his experience facilitating nature-based programs for people, he transitioned to the operational side – with a focus on cultivating the donor base Power To Be needs to offer long-term programming. With a team of more than 25 full-time staff, which includes a dedicated Vancouver team, Power To Be supported more than 1,000 participants to experience adventures in nature in 2014.

One key strategy Power To Be uses can be seen in both the large and small-scale events the team hosts. From Power To Play (in Vancouver and Victoria) and Power To Golf (in Victoria), to smaller weekend trips to locations such as Nimmo Bay Resort, the focus is on stewarding long-term relationships with donors. “While these are techniques that can be used, organizations need to determine what is reflective of their own culture in order to be successful”, Tim says.

It also means defining what success looks like to your organization before investing time and money into an approach. In the case of an event, it’s important to ask if you want to cultivate relationships with future donors, raise money on the day or gain exposure through media attention. “Events are investments for the long term,” Tim says. “You have to think beyond the day.”

Strategies to consider:

  • Create a scorecard that defines your organization’s culture. You should also create scorecards for individual events.
  • Determine what skills you need at a board level and recruit individuals to fit those needs. Set up an advisory board of individuals who can support the organization through networking opportunities.
  • Review your current donor base annually to help tailor your approach for which relationships you want to focus on in the coming year.
  • Establish a recognition program to ensure that you are stewarding the relationships you cultivate. Ask yourself, “If there was only one thing you could do to thank donors what would it be?” From handwritten thank you cards to larger recognition items, build a program that reflects your organizational culture.

Dan Bowditch, Lead Partner of Athletics 4 Kids, praises SVP’s reciprocal relationship with Power To Be. “It was wise for SVP to take on Power To Be as an already well-developed and successful organization, simply for the value that they are able to give back to other Investees in earlier stages of growth.”

“We have been there. We are still there sometimes,” Tim says. “That is why it is important for organizations to share lessons learned so that collectively we can contribute to a stronger community.”

Show your appreciation for Power To Be’s excellent work – and have some fun – by volunteering for Power To Play Vancouver, a fundraiser in support of the organization held in Stanley Park on September 24.