What Does the Election Mean for Nonprofits?
Last night was an epic night for the United States. We chose between two major candidates for president who had incredibly high negative ratings, as well as obvious fans.
Eight years ago, we elected Barack Obama, a one-term senator, as president, and pundits said that his election would change how campaigns are run. This year, we elected a billionaire former reality-television star who ran a very unconventional campaign—and again, many said it will change how campaigns are run.
Power and money can bring out the best and worst in people, and even perceived shifts in power and affluence does the same.
Like many, I’m glad the election is over. I hope leaders at all levels bring increased discernment, leadership and dignity to the electoral and government process.
In my nonprofit experience, I have seen the pendulum swing many times. And it seems to often do the same in politics. A CEO serves an organization and leads in one direction with the support of the board, and then when it is time for a transition, the organization looks for a leader with different skills and a different temperament to lead—even if it is in a different direction.
One key to learning is not to be isolated and afraid to listen. Take the pulse of your constituencies regularly through processes like strategic planning and a campaign-planning feasibility study. Periodically get insight through impartial interviews, focus groups and surveys. One of the most dangerous things a leader can say is, “I know what my board/donors/constituents think/want/will do.” One thing is for certain with this election cycle—a lot of people just didn’t understand the perceptions and views of many voters.
No matter your politics, one thing is certain: The role of philanthropy in education, social services, health care and nonprofits across the board will be greater than ever. It will take years to see where government is headed and if that direction is effective. And in the meantime there remains significant challenges and issues to address.
It is nonprofits, accountable to the public and guided by their boards, who can and should be most in tune with the challenges—and the solutions—to the significant problems we face. So, while there is some uncertainty over what the next few years will bring, and our country appears to be politically divided, we can unite to support nonprofits that are serving the common good.
We can engage volunteers and donors of all ages and backgrounds, and we can help them be more aware of the difference they can make and the needs of their neighbors, their country and their world.
Even with a lot of noise and distraction, let’s double down and focus on our worthy missions and work to be even more effective at creating solutions, communicating our stories, and engaging volunteers and donors. Let’s focus on the incredible impact that we can make over the next four years.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.