Navigating Game-Changing Grants

Planning for Scale

Case Study
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Case Study: Outright International

When Outright International, an LGBTQI human rights nonprofit, received its financial windfall, they were in the middle of strategic planning, spurred by budgetary and programmatic growth before and during the pandemic. This facilitated a clear process of moving towards a strong vision when they received the windfall gift. Breaking down his understanding into challenges, lessons, and opportunities, Kevin Wanzor, Head of Operations at Outright, talked through three such aspects:

  1. One of the most profound challenges in planning for scale amplified by the large, one-time grant, Kevin recounts was that “everyone was focused on growth, but everyone had a different definition of what growth meant – was it the growth of our budget, was it the growth of our staff, was it the deepening of our current programs or was it building new programs? What we figured out was that growth was not a goal, in and of itself. We needed time to figure out what growth meant and to come up with a clear definition.” The organization wanted to understand growth for each of the stakeholders, from Board members to constituencies, partners and program staff that are intrinsic to their operations. “It allowed an opportunity for us to stop, reset and get on the same page on what we meant when we talked about growth,” says Kevin.
  2. Once the organization defined and clearly articulated the meaning of growth, we focused on the importance of how growth could be sustainable. Kevin explains, “The lesson here was, investing in great programming and a support staff will allow us to grow our programs and fundraising strongly in the future.” While this was not necessarily a revelation, the grant helped emphasize this aspect for the organization and provided an opportunity to invest in building new leadership in mid-management, address staffing challenges for over-stretched senior managers and provide more direction for junior employees and build them up. Working to continue current programming concurrently with new activities offered the possibility of transferring learnings, and maintaining a consistent feedback loop between both sets of activities.
  3. Overall, a challenge of the financial windfall was understanding what it all meant. Some questions that came up across staff hierarchies were how to ramp up to be more productive; how to grow smartly in a tricky market that calls for higher salaries; how to manage resistance to spending funds in a shifting political and economic landscape. Reflecting on the learnings, Kevin said, “change should be incremental and deliberate, including our access to the Scott funds and this needs to be understood by all stakeholders.”

Outright International developed an eight-year plan outlining fund utilization and associated timelines. This helped with communications across the organization. This process listened to stakeholder reflections on what the grant meant and allowed the framing of a strategic plan, which highlighted modifications in organizational structures, and the realities of the world and the environment they operated in.

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