We know it might feel impossible to see any good coming out of this pandemic; the suffering and losses are very real on so many levels. But in our work with nonprofits across the country, we are seeing 5 unexpected effects that offer a bit of hope for our sector.
You know those board members who rarely show up to meetings, derail the conversation by bringing up old issues like how cold their steak was at the gala, have great, time-consuming ideas for staff to do immediately, and go to the bathroom when it’s time to review the give/get report? Those guys and gals are finally stepping down! Board members who weren’t invested for the right reasons are self-selecting out, and it’s a good thing. Meanwhile, other board members are stepping up! We’re seeing lots and lots of board-driven fundraising campaigns, hands-on volunteering, weekly zoom check-ins to support the ED, board members presenting information to each other and taking ownership over their ideas. It’s great to see!
Overhead Myth is Dunzo!
For years, Guidestar and the Foundation Center have been trying to take back the overhead myth - the false conception that financial ratios are the sole indicator of nonprofit performance. For those of you that don’t know, this ratio obsession (Program vs Overhead) causes donors to not want their donations to fund staff time, but rather to go “directly to beneficiaries.” And what have we learned from this pandemic? NONPROFITS NEED THEIR STAFF! Programs and services cannot happen without people. They should not be considered overhead. It’s like having hands without arms, and we think everyone finally gets it now.
Calling for DAFs to DIY
Ah, Donor Advised Funds... the great unknown, the unanswered question, every nonprofit’s white whale. There is over $121 billion dollars sitting in donor-advised funds with currently no payout mandate, and finally people are starting to complain. In an op-ed published by USA Today, the head of the Wallace Global Fund suggests a 10% payout for each of the next three years. Could you imagine the philanthropic glory! We agree this would be a wise solution to ensure vulnerable populations continue to receive vital services to keep our society from completely collapsing.
Donor Relationships, Not Ticket Sales
Unfortunately, going virtual has not resolved our love-hate relationship with fundraising events. Maybe you don’t have to shell out $75 a plate and spend thousands of dollars on centerpieces, but you do have to purchase multiple technology platforms, rehearse for hours, be ready for how you’d handle a zoom bomb, and accept the fact it’s going to feel weird. But on the bright side, isn’t it nice to not be financially dependent on an event! Finally, you’re able to focus your time on cultivating authentic relationships with donors as opposed to the transaction of ticket sales and auction items.
Mergers Losing Their Stigma
Coming from a company that facilitates nonprofit mergers, we really hate the stigma around mergers and restructurings, so much so that we call them “strategic partnerships.” The truth is, “strategic partnerships” are smart when they are fueled by the mission-driven desire for a long-term solution as opposed to short-term cost savings. There are so many options, from parent-subsidiaries to shared administration, and the best “strategic partnerships” start when organizations are strong and focused on opportunities. Don’t wait to think and talk about “strategic partnerships.” Do yourself a favor and begin the conversations now with possible partners and funders that want to help.
So in conclusion… although there is an abundance of dire and heartbreaking news in our world right now, there are a few silver linings that can help all of us see the potential for good days ahead.
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