Top 5 Assets Nonprofits Need to Survive in Today’s Economy

Certainly, these are uncertain times for many nonprofit organizations. It didn’t take long for the weak economy to trickle down and impact (in many cases devastate) the one sector almost entirely dependent on the generosity of others for success (whether that means through donations, grants, volunteers or corporate sponsorship). Scarcity replaced abundance as the guiding principle among the giving sector and many charitable organizations were left scrambling for survival.

Although the concept of social entrepreneurship is gaining momentum (using traditional free-market ideals and strategies in order to fund humanitarian or other philanthropic ventures), for the most part, a majority of charitable endeavors rely on the traditional nonprofit model and may find it to be an outdated paradigm in the (soon-to-be) post-recession landscape.

The traditional nonprofit model looks something like this: a need in a community exists whose solution falls outside the scope of the free-market, supply and demand, revenue-generating formula; a charitable organization is consequently devised; its leadership does its best to convince others to support it.

To their credit, many organizations took this “opportunity” to re-evaluate the traditional model and some have re-invented themselves to fit better in today’s climate – some in order to survive, others because of shrewd leadership (or both).

Listed below are the five most important assets nonprofit organizations need to have in place in order to succeed in 2018:

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Social Media for Nonprofits: A Survival Guide

These are tough economic times for everyone but they are particularly challenging for nonprofits, which are seeing a vastly increased demand for services while simultaneously experiencing a precipitous drop in donations and grant funding. An article in the March 1, 2009 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle by staff writer Meredith May, puts it this way: “Funding is drying up on all fronts. Individual donors, dealing with their own financial woes, are not giving. Governments, socked by property tax losses, have eliminated funding. Large philanthropic foundations have scaled back as the stock market has eroded an average 30 percent of their endowments.”

Michael Seltzer, educator, consultant, and author of the Foundation Center’s book, Securing Your Organization’s Future, described the “perfect storm” of circumstances that has led to a significant reduction of the nonprofit safety net for those in our communities who are most vulnerable:

  • Federal, state and local governments are cutting back their support.
  • Declines in the stock market are affecting the endowments of foundations.
  • Individual giving is down as people cut back on everything considered “nonessential.”
  • Corporate giving has declined, although some sectors such as defense and technology remain strong.

“We have never in my lifetime experienced so much turbulence on all four of those fronts,” he said in a podcast hosted by the Foundation Center entitled “Nonprofit Survival in Uncertain Times” on Nov. 4, 2008.

“The Quiet Crisis: The Impact of the Economic Crisis on the Nonprofit Sector,” a report published in March 2009 by the Civic Enterprises and the Democratic Leadership Council and coauthored by Bruce Reed and John Bridgeland, expresses it even more bluntly: “In the wake of the economic downturn, hospitals, nursing homes, nursery schools, senior centers, soup kitchens, and other nonprofit organizations have been hit by a triple whammy. The evaporation of wealth has decimated charitable donations; the state and local budget crunch is costing nonprofits their foremost paying clients; and the human need for nonprofit help is skyrocketing as nonprofit resources shrink.”

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The Strategic Planning Process for Social Enterprise & Nonprofits

Why develop a Strategic Plan for a Social Enterprise/Nonprofit?

There are many valid reasons for developing a strategic plan for a social enterprise or nonprofit. The main benefit that flows from planning is the establishment of common goals and creating a collaborative environment where all stakeholders are working towards the same mission, vision, and values.

Strategic plans can also have an impact on the financial bottom line, by providing potential funding partners with a clear path that your organization will follow, and how you will reach your goals. This document provides a historical context for the current situation the organization finds itself in, sets the future direction of the organization and how it plans to meet its targets, and ensures an evaluation and monitoring process is set up to measure the success and challenges as the plan is implemented.

Steps in Developing a Strategic Plan

First, make sure you have set aside sufficient resources to complete the plan. Establish the steward of the plan, by either appointing an individual or a group to take responsibility for the progress of the plan. Get the buy-in of leaders in the organization, including senior staff and board members.

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Where Should Your Charity Gifts Go?

Wanting to give to others is good. Not knowing where you should send your charity gifts is problematic. Those that can’t decide sometimes just don’t give at all. Instead of wondering, there are quite a few things you can do to make sure you are giving what you feel is right, to causes that mean something to you. You can also allow others to give to a charity that means a lot to them if you simply don’t know what to do or where your charity dollar is best spent. Charity gift cards are a great option for the confused but well-meaning person.

What Means the Most To You?

You may be confused about charity gifts at the present time. Perhaps one of your favorite charities helps to give clean water to those overseas. This is a noble charity, and is also a very needed one that deserves charity gifts. However, you may be looking around and thinking about how you see suffering in your own backyard, and perhaps you feel that your money should be going to those near you. After all, charity begins at home. What you should do is split what you already give between home and international if both mean something to you. You can give others that option as well.

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Comprehensive Nonprofit Marketing Strategy to Meet Multiple Goals

For organizations designed to operate without profit, marketing is often seen as an unnecessary expense. The gap between spending on marketing – and the corresponding results – by for-profit corporations and nonprofit organizations is substantial. It is often a philosophical difference. Corporations believe they exist to make money. Nonprofits believe they exist to perform the work of their mission. But where will the resources to do that important work come from without effective marketing?

Employing an Integrated Nonprofit Marketing Strategy

An integrated marketing strategy will tie together all nonprofit communications with a unified approach and consistent branding. While marketing functions often exist in different departments in an organization – fundraising communications in the development department and volunteer recruitment communications in the program department, for example – it is possible to create a comprehensive marketing plan to reach all stakeholders (groups that have a meaningful interest in the organization, such as donors, volunteers, employees, board members and governmental agencies).

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Nonprofits Branding for the 21st Century

Since they emerged as “associations” observed by DeToqueville, almost everyone has benefited or knows someone who has benefited from a nonprofit’s service. Pragmatic Philanthropy examined these early roots.

What Happens in America Happens to Nonprofits

Throughout our history, philanthropic actions have been reflections of changes in law and society. In Colonial America, repudiation of aristocracy affected the seeds of philanthropy. Changes in contract law had a profound effect as did the decline of churches – occurring at the same time. Between 1810 and 1850, the U.S. Supreme Court made several decisions that applied contract law theory around charitable institutions.

Contemporaneously, as religious institutions became less able to care for the poor and needy, charitable organizations took their place. The need for survival further spurred the development of associations such as fire departments. By 1843, Robert Hartley had established the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor. With a cadre of middle-class volunteers, the organization sought to end poverty by bringing about changes in behavior among the poor. These events, viewed as occuring at the same time in history, are instructive to post-millennium nonprofits seeking to survive. The answers to their future prospects aren’t in a crystal ball – it’s on the news.

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