My Financial Resilience Journey: Donna McSkimming

We interviewed Donna McSkimming in December 2018 when she was the Program Director at the International Women’s Development Agency. IWDA works to advance and protect the rights of women and girls, with the vision that one day gender equality will be achieved for all.

She attended Spring’s Financial Resilience Intensive in Bangkok, October 2018.

What are your organization’s biggest challenges?

We’ve had some success with getting international funding and bigger grants, but our biggest challenge is that our organization’s growth is not matched by growth in unrestricted funding. Our ratio of tied and untied funding is not where we want it to be. This limits flexibility; there’s not enough buffer to supplement challenging or long-term work and support the initiatives donors are not funding. We experience real pressure on indirect funds. I got great insight at this workshop learning how to anticipate when shortfalls will happen, how to plan for them and also how to raise funds with less restrictions.

Regarding the future financial model and health of your organization, what are you most excited about?

I appreciated the insight into Foundations as a funding sector—how they work, what prospecting them might look like. They are really important around influencing other donors. We tend to forget about this role they sometimes play.

I’m also excited about prospecting. The process we learned to proactively assess good funder partners was really helpful, and I’m looking forward to doing the ‘speed prospecting’ exercise we practiced. We have our own long and detailed process, but speed prospecting is a great way to create more energy. We learned how to do a quick and comprehensive scan and to use that as a starting point for a go/no go decision, potentially followed by a deeper more exhaustive process. It will save us quite a bit of time.

What are you going to do differently?

One of the big things I took away is the importance of communicating to our supporter base, including our institutional donors. We always need to be thinking about how they perceive us and what they expect or need to hear. And how we can bring them closer so they feel a sense of belonging and connection. Fundraising is most of all about building relationships, preferably transformational relationships, where both partners inspire each other and grow together. It also creates more opportunities for larger and more flexible grants, with fewer restrictions.

What will change for your team?

Sharing information is important. We need to share regularly and have webinars about our successes. We need to measure our financial health and share these metrics with more people, not just a few.

What was the single most personal benefit you received from the program?

Apart from skill building and the things I mentioned earlier, I really appreciated the network that the workshop provides. We had a great group of people in the Intensive. Because it was so highly participatory, we got to know each other well. A great sense of camaraderie developed, and a mutual awareness that we face similar challenges. Also, it was really gratifying to participate with some of our partners, engage with them, sharing their ‘a-ha’ moments.

What would you like to share with future participants of this program?

Seriously consider having multiple participants from one organization attend, each with different roles in the organization.

That way there will be mutual reinforcement and discussions, and more powerful follow-up and transformation within your group.

And also, that this course is so effective because it shows that finance and fundraising is not siloed. And that all the other aspects of the organization, like communications and programs are connected to financial health. Financial resilience sits at the intersection of everything we do as NGOs.