In today’s climate nonprofits find themselves growing and transforming in unanticipated ways. Some are taking on additional responsibilities while many others are unable to operate as they did way back in 2019. These changes are putting a lot of pressure on board members and staff who may have been more comfortable with the way things were.
There are new investments being made in the form of grants, gifts, loans, and emergency funding. Nonprofits are being asked to serve as community connectors in new ways to ensure critical human needs are met. Sometimes these new opportunities are embraced – they are seen as opportunities. Other times they are questioned, as leadership asks, “does this align with our mission?” Or “that’s not the direction we committed to in our strategic plan.” These are important business questions. But, today, everyone is being asked to pitch in. If you are an optimist, you see the opportunities, if you fear the glass is half empty, the needs can appear overwhelming.
Foundations, government agencies, and philanthropists have been turning to nonprofits asking them to step up and play a critical role during the COVID-19 pandemic and in how we respond to historic and continuing racism. People want answers and cures but those in the trenches know change takes time. It also takes people, relationships, experience, and trust. What some call “human capital.” While financial capital now often accompanies the “asks” of our organizations, most times it is not enough. As a result, nonprofits are being pulled in different directions, asked to guide, lead and respond – quickly – in ways that may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable.
Some people who work in nonprofits – and serve on their boards – are emotionally fatigued, stressed, and cautious about “going too far out on the limb.” At the same time, funders who are investing want to see results – sometimes more quickly than what feels reasonable. It is not yet clear what community needs will be over the next 12 to 18 months, and there is uncertainty about how long additional funding will last.
Nonprofit leaders are asking “how will we sustain the when the money goes away?” All are weighing important questions: How do we weigh our responsibility to our organization and community? What are we required to do in this moment that may pull us far from who we sought to be? Will we return to our original missions? Should we? Do we have a choice?
We are operating in the “fog of uncertainty.” We have to move forward even if we aren’t quite sure what forward actually looks like right now, or where exactly it is. We know there are many needs and demands pulling on our resource. We must respond. But when will this time end, and who will we be when it is over?
All of this contributes to growing pains. This is where we are organizationally, as families, communities, and a country. We can get through it. We have to keep our vision and hold hands.
[Copyright 2021 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2021 Video and phone conferencing services always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.]