Okay, forewarning – this is a bit of a rant. Prepare yourself for some tough love, some hard truths, and some tangible takeaways to keep your organization on the right track during this pandemic! Trust me, a small vision won’t cut it.

Nonprofits are living in a difficult environment. That is a fact. How many various challenges have been thrown our way this year? The pandemic, societal injustice, a divisive election – and serious economic challenges for many nonprofits. 

The only way to flourish is to tackle challenges head on. You and your board have to choose to focus on the hard stuff. The difficult decisions. The scary risks. 

There are too many organizations simply hunkering down and muddling along, trying to make it through in survival mode. Will they make it? We doubt it. 

Instead, we want to see you take a strong stand for a new, expanded vision. If you want to flourish in the world to come, you need an even bigger goal – both financially and programmatically. Are you inventing new ways of serving your people? Are you inspiring your donors with an exciting vision of the future?

If your nonprofit wants to make it in the world to come – here are our do’s and don’ts for maxing the benefits of this challenging time:

1. Do expand. Don’t contract

Believe in yourselves and in your organization! This is not the time to doubt yourself, your mission, or your colleagues. Don’t stick to a small vision. Nonprofit professionals are a special breed. They fight when the going gets tough and their passion fuels their energy. 

Think outside the box, challenge yourselves, try the impossible. This is the time to expand together, not contract alone.

2. Do encourage your board to prioritize. Don’t get sidetracked by non-critical topics.

We see this every day, the larger issues looming are so frightening and confusing that board members are more comfortable talking about sideline issues. The organization’s future may be at stake, and the board is off discussing zoom meeting formats. 

Time with the board together is precious and fleeting, use it! There’s an elephant in the room, and it’s your organization’s financial future. 

3. Do reinvent. Don’t retreat. 

Do you need to revamp your business model to shift away from some types of earned revenue?  It’s a time to think big and be bold. 

Where’s your opportunity and creativity? Your board can’t get away with the same old ideas and view of the world. Wake them up with a bold challenge.  

Now is the time to create a big new vision for the future. Nothing is going back to “normal,” so do not stay tied to previous years’ plans. 

4. Do invest in fundraising. Don’t cut your revenue streams.

If you cut fundraising here is what will happen: 

    1. You will lose contact with your staunchest donor supporters 
    2. The donor newsletter that you cancelled to save money no longer keeps donors informed and feeling connected 
    3. Your thank you letters are going out late and your donors feel you no longer appreciate them 
    4. Your donors will desert you because they aren’t hearing from you 

This is brutal, but true. Remember, if you have more money, you can do more good. More money takes investing in fundraising revenue streams.

5. Do tap your reserve funds if absolutely necessary. Don’t jeopardize your organization’s future in the name of fiscal responsibility. 

“But the reserve fund is for an emergency.” This IS an emergency!

This may be the rainy day you saved for, and if you cut back too severely there might not be anything left of your staff, donors, or services to save for. 

Invest if you need to invest. Retool if you need to retool. The priority right now is to stay afloat and continue fundraising to do your work. Remember major donors are stepping up to the plate these days. 

BOTTOM LINE: There’s too much at stake right now. It’s time to step up to the plate. PRIORITIZE, COMMUNICATE, and ACT BOLDLY.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

Planning a capital campaign? If you would like to learn about our innovative Capital Campaigns by the Numbers approach – that brings in campaigns over goal and under the timeline, let us know.