ProSpeak: Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Strengths
Working with a variety of nonprofit organizations, we’ve learned that by following a few simple actions, your organization can withstand economic uncertainty and, perhaps, even grow because of it.
1. Perform a financial review. Assess what is truly important. Assemble your best fiscal experts from your volunteer base, not solely to cut expenses (although that might be a part of it), but to test your fundamental business model. Confirm your pricing, and make sure everyone on your staff is contributing to the bottom line. Defend against panic and emotion by getting real information and making data-based decisions.
2. Be proactive. Address constituents’ fears about the economy directly and openly. Say, “Here is how we plan to address this crisis.” Don’t wait to be affected; look ahead and anticipate what you can do to be stronger and more efficient. Some donors might even make gifts to help you strengthen the organization. Use the inevitability of change to drive change that you probably already suspect is needed.
3. Refine your message. Now more than ever, make sure the community, donors and prospective donors understand the role you play in the community. Refine your message. Be specific. Clearly articulate your value to the community. Ask yourself, “What fundamental message must our constituents and donors remember about us?”
4. Cultivate. Bring potential supporters into your organization’s circle. Focus on the one resource they can afford to give: time. Provide opportunities for constituents to see the work you do and meet the people involved so you can build relationships that yield long-term support.
5. Communicate. Tell people about your changes or adjustments, and they’ll be much more likely to get involved or make a gift. Get the story out, and show that you’re being proactive.
6. Keep fundraising. Visit your donors. Then, visit them again. In fact, you might want to see them more often during times like these. Other organizations might be making the worst mistake of all — cutting off contact. Step into the void and you can build a stronger relationship with donors and friends. Cultivate even if you don’t think you should solicit. Experience tells us people might give less, or they might defer a decision, but they will give.
7. Find answers. If you see a decrease in program participation, don’t automatically shrug it off as a product of the economy. Sure, it might be a factor, but analyze the problem and see what is happening and how long it’s been happening. You might discover challenges that help you redefine your services and programs.
8. Partner. Consider partnership opportunities with nonprofit organizations that perform similar services. This might provide new ways to save costs and opportunities to show the community how collaborative you are. Remember to partner for mutual benefit, defining the benefits you wish to obtain first and then partnering — not the other way around.
9. Define a work plan. Make sure your organization has a clear plan of work for the next six to 12 months — in other words, a strategic plan. If not, develop one that helps you stay on track to meet objectives defined by the board.
Executing these strategies will define your success during these times and beyond by protecting you from falling victim to the crisis. It’s essential that you maintain and communicate your belief that your organization continues to do incredible work in the community. The economy shouldn’t diminish your faith in that.
So, why not make the best of these times? Look beyond simple survival. Choose to stay strong and grow stronger. You just might be amazed by the opportunities that approach delivers to your organization. FS
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