The Cornerstone Group

Welcome to The Cornerstone Group

Set the right cornerstones to build your successful development program . . .

Do these problems sound familiar?

"We aren't at all sure that we can raise the money we need."

"Our trustees consider development something you hire staff to do."

"My volunteers are using every excuse in the book not to ask for money."

"We need help in planning, so our development goals make sense in a broader perspective."

We can help lay a solid foundation for fund-raising success!

Many factors contribute to a successful development effort -- an active, involved board, volunteer solicitors who are comfortable asking people for gifts, adequate internal systems to handle your volunteers' and donors' needs, and objective, experienced counsel to help you and your volunteers focus on the most effective development activities you can undertake.

Too often, campaigns begin without the staff, board, and volunteers fully understanding what it takes for a campaign to be successful. Assumptions are made, but communication is forgotten and the campaign's effectiveness is minimal.

The Cornerstone Group conducts lively orientation and solicitation training sessions for volunteers and staff and can test the feasibility of that campaign you have in mind.

With your volunteers, we can also develop a campaign plan that will be your road map to success.

Strategic direction . . .

Plan for the future: Successful organizations don't just happen.

Universally, a strong organization is characterized by its sense of self, by having goals, and a clear direction.

In other words, strong organizations have good planning -- from long-range, institution-wide strategic planning, springing from the mission to one-year detailed plans for the development effort.

Good planning requires a solid investment of time, energy, and creativity. But you may never make a better investment. For planning not only enables your organization to act, rather than react, but major donors actually look for evidence of good planning. Yes, it is literally in your direct financial interest to adopt, update, and live under a solid plan.

We don't plan to fail, we fail to plan.

Turbocharging your Board's performance . . .

It all starts at the top: Governing Boards come in all shapes and sizes. They also vary considerably in their level of performance, both directly and indirectly affecting fundraising efforts. Most not-for-profit organizations work hard to deliver top-quality programs. At the same time, most organizations could devote more effort to making sure their Boards grow and mature along with their programs. Annual Board self-assessments, strategic Board recruitment, ongoing Board orientation and training, facilitated retreats, well-designed communication methods, and effective use of committees – all these tools contribute to improved Board effectiveness. 

The fundamental responsibilities of Boards do not change as an organization matures, but the roles do. Key milestones often trigger internal Board conflict or Board-staff friction. Without some external consulting, this evolution can be difficult. But with the right guidance, these transitions may be navigated constructively. A great Board is a great asset to development efforts, so make sure your Board is at its best.

A development plan . . .

Make the most effective, efficient use of scarce resources: Too often, an agency will plan to raise money using the least cost-effective methods, just because they don’t know any better, and because they’ve always done it that way! Afraid to fail, leaders stick to the “tried and true,” even if the truth is that they are wasting volunteers’ time – and the agency’s money – by  focusing exclusively on low-return special events and mass mailings. These methods certainly have a place in a well-rounded development program. However, unless the Board and staff understand what that place should be, they’re not maximizing the return on the investment in their development program.

A well done development plan takes into account an agency’s resources – dollars, volunteer and staff time, tools – and carefully assesses how those resources have been used. Then we propose how development activities might be restructured to use these resourced more effectively. Having a plan in place will help you 1) raise more money; 2) stop wasting Board members’ time; 3) bring in more volunteers; 4) increase your stability; and 5) decrease your cost per dollar raised.

Capital campaign feasibility study . . .

Determine if a capital campaign is feasible: If your non-profit agency is considering a major capital campaign, it might make very good sense first to conduct a campaign feasibility study.

A campaign feasibility study analyzes your campaign's chances for success. It helps identify potential donors, campaign leadership, and volunteers. It helps you set a realistic goal. It pinpoints strong and potentially weak points in your case for support and determines potential donors' priorities within the campaign.

With a campaign feasibility study, you have in hand a thorough assessment of your readiness to conduct this campaign, both internally (staffing, technical support, and board leadership) and externally (as part of the wider fund-raising context of your area). While the written report is not a campaign plan, it will feature observations and detailed recommendations designed to guide you in the subsequent planning, preparation, nucleus, and public phases of your campaign.

In short, a feasibility study can save money, time, and credibility.

Because participants will respond more accurately if they know their responses are confidential, the study should be conducted by an objective outside party.

Campaign consulting . . .

Raising the money your organization needs and deserves: For most organizations – their staff, boards, and volunteers – development doesn't come naturally. Once they get going, however, some people are "naturals" at it.

Very often, the successful campaign needs a push. Its development team needs the encouragement and coaching to actually go out and do it. It needs someone who's been there to monitor progress, troubleshoot, and to keep everyone on focus.

This is "campaign consulting." It occurs after the feasibility study, campaign plan, and other pieces are in place. For even the strongest organization, it can be the vital factor in their campaign success.

Merger facilitation . . .

A merger is like a marriage: it takes desire and hard work on both sides: Mergers may be contemplated for a variety of reasons. Perhaps services to the community need to be coordinated over a larger geographic area; perhaps two agencies together provide a continuum of services; or perhaps one agency has lots to offer, but isn’t quite strong enough to survive alone. Not-for-profit mergers, while complicated, can result in better service to the community, a unified voice, one-stop shopping for clients, and less competition for contract and charitable dollars. 

In many cases, the process of a merger should be facilitated by an experienced, neutral party. Such facilitation allows each organization to feel respected while the process moves forward. Concerns may be raised in a safe environment, understandings reached. Bold, constructive ideas can be incorporated. The end result can be a stronger, unified organization with a new vision shared by all involved.

The Cornerstone Group clients include organizations both young and mature:

      • Arts organizations
      • Community foundations
      • Schools and universities
      • Seniors'  groups
      • Children's groups
      • Civic justice organizations
      • Education foundations
      • Social service agencies
      • Churches

The Cornerstone Group helps you define your goals . . . and achieve them!