Monday, May 21, 2012

Crisis = Opportunity: Refocusing On Your Nonprofit Organization's Mission Statement

It is very difficult to be optimistic and hopeful during these times. For most of us in the nonprofit field things look pretty bleak. There will be up to 100,000 nonprofits that could go out of business, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

I offer some tips to do the best we can with what we've got. It might provide the comfort that we are taking steps now that might make us a stronger agency in the future.

  1. Refocus on the Mission. If you do have to make cuts, always look first at your Mission for guidance. Make the cuts that will have the least impact on you fulfilling your core mission.
  2. Strengthen your relationship with donors. This is the time to bring them closer to your agency's services, to help them understand the impact of the economy on your client's lives. Switch from "asking" to "cultivation of relationships". Keep them involved. They will be back.
  3. Reach out to new donors. We have learned that philanthropic giving does not fall as badly as the economy. Some people become more compassionate. Use the Internet and low cost events to reach out to new donors and ask for smaller gifts. People will give.
  4. Review your financial interests. Financial reporting to the Board and the community should clearly demonstrate the impact of these reductions of income on our services.
  5. Strengthen your core services. This is the time to evaluate and strengthen your core services. Whatever you do, use this opportunity to make sure you are doing it the best you can, so that when times get better, you will have learned better service modalities upon which you can build.
  6. Reach out to volunteers. With more people unemployed, there is talent that should be recruited as 'unpaid staff'. Wherever possible use these people, plus highly experienced new retirees, and bring them into your agency to keep your services going. There are professional artists, mental health providers, and skilled administrators who would love a chance to do something meaningful with their lives.
  7. Seek new collaborations. Look around for partners who would be willing to share staff or back-room services during this period. We often overlook the opportunity to build community during these times. Other agencies are also suffering, so see what you can do together.
  8. Grow the leadership. Invest in training for your staff and volunteers. Most people, when given new skills, will be more productive. If everyone is going to have to work harder, let's help them work smarter.
  9. Demonstrate confidence. It may be tough to make cuts, but make them and move on. Leadership requires you set a tone of optimism while everyone else is consumed by doubt and fear.
  10. Take care of yourself. Get away from work. Spend time with your family. Things are not going to get better because you are working yourself into the sick-bed. This is going to go on for a while so pace yourself.

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