The Center for Planning Excellence is the only nonprofit planning organization in Louisiana. As such it takes on a wide variety of projects and initiatives — and that can be a challenge, says Lauren Michaud Knotts, director of communications. “We do a lot of different things, and while they’re connected, they all have very different audiences,” she says.
CPEX is working with our latest Leadership Coaching Series to address those challenges. Here’s what participants are working on.
Ideas for Fundraising
CPEX was founded just after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2006, and originally worked through federal earmarks, Knotts says. Now, CPEX has a diverse funding model that comprises fee-for-service work, grants, contracts, and fundraising revenue through a Membership model.. CPEX has a strong brand among those “in the know” about planning state-wide, and seeks to grow that in order to cultivate new Members.
Another challenge is that rather than holding an annual fundraising push, the organization offers memberships to people who want to support the organization. This model, rolled out in 2011, has served the organization well, but Knotts says Members’ interests shift and change. The organization is looking for innovative fundraising strategies and better ways to articulate its value to the community.
Also, because many donors are personally connected to the CEO, which will change over time. Knotts says constantly broadening the knowledge base around CPEX’s impact throughout the state will be key.
Clarifying the Brand
Knotts says branding is the other main issue she’d like to see Leadership Coaching Series members take on. “Our brand is kind of complex, so that’s a challenge, especially when fundraising” she says. “People have to be in the know about the severity of problems we address and be willing to make that extra step to invest.”
The organization’s projects are often long term as well, making it difficult to create a sense of urgency or accomplishment. “It’s not like you give money today and next month you see a playground; it’s a long process where the payoffs are far down the road,” she says. And sometimes those projects can be viewed as controversial, Knotts says.
As planners, Knotts says, it can be difficult to get the word out about the work the organization does. “Nothing we do is solely attributable to us,” she says. “We develop great plans and policy recommendations, but it’s still up to someone else, like lawmakers and officials, to implement or find the funding to make those a reality.” The organization would like a better plan for communicating its impact.
Overview of the Leadership Coaching Series
The Leadership Coaching Series is designed to challenge high-potential employees and new leaders to expand their leadership competencies as they offer innovative, strategic business solutions to real-world problems faced by a community partner organization. Participants are divided into two teams and must work together to identify strategies the organization can use to achieve its goals. We’re excited to see how the teams approach CPEX’s challenges and look forward to the results.