When Will the Economy Get Better?

If you are like most nonprofit leaders, you are asking yourself how the continuing economic downturn will impact your organization – and you may be wondering if 2016 is going to be worse than the last few years. You’re likely wondering how to increase funding so you can maintain the same level of service and program as in the past.

Are we pulling out of the downturn? Is the worst yet to come? How long will it last? When will we be back to the good old days? And for sure – what will be the long-term consequences to building future fundraising capacity? These are all concerns that you are  probably asking yourself.

The uncertainty is incredibly unsettling and frustrating. But I don’t think there is a nonprofit leader that can look at the current economic conditions and say to their staff – “oh, no problem, been there, done that – all we need to do is X, Y and Z.”

Unfortunately, it just isn’t that simple because the convergence of events and trends is simply unprecedented. We are in unchartered water and no one has the silver bullet and now one can foretell the future.

Some of us will accidentally take the right approach by gauging trends, strategizing accurately and following our instincts – perhaps by being very bullish and paying no attention to the pundits. Others may be very conservative in their approach by cutting back, doing less donor acquisition, reducing services or staff and believe they are setting the right course only to find themselves in a tougher situation in a couple of years. But the reality is that most of us will simply be a deer in the headlights.

So what now? We know it’s tough. We know it’s going to take a great deal of brain-power and will-power to stick with it and stay optimistic in order to get through these tough and uncertain times and adjust to the “new normal”.

Here are a couple of points to ponder…

1. First, we need to keep calm and realize the forces at work are the reality of life at the present moment. We can’t think about the good old days nor can we think about the perfect future. And we definitely can’t bemoan the present. The present is where we live; and it’s our job as a senior executive to roll up our sleeves and earn our keep. The solutions to the challenges are our responsibility. So bite the bullet and make the tough decisions.

2. Second, double your strategic focus. Review every facet of your organization but most importantly review, modify or re-energize how you fundraise and market your organization.

3. Are you as efficient as you can be? Are you getting the most bang for your buck? Are there new and better ways you could be approaching the day-to-day aspects of your work? Like an Olympic coach working with her Gold Medal athlete you must challenge the status quo and chase away any hint of mediocrity because it’s poison to growth and innovation.

4. You need to be entrepreneurial and transformational in your approach. You can no longer rely on the tried and true. You must try new things; reinvent your organization if necessary; push the envelope and build a first class business model that is efficient, effective, and sustainable.

5. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you need to focus all your energy on stewardship. We all know it’s harder to get a new donor than it is to hold on to an existing loyal supporter. Once you truly embrace this concept you will want to put more energy into holding onto what you have rather than finding new supporters. It means acknowledging the donations in a more meaningful and substantial way and making the donor feel like she is the most important person in the world to your organization.