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Keys to nonprofit success in complex times

The multiple, inextricably related crises of 2020 confirmed that nonprofits are invaluable to our society. Throughout the pandemic, charitable organizations adapted in order to provide much-needed support, including innovations in health care and access to food security. In addition, nonprofits across the sector responded to calls for racial justice with compassion and courage.

This historic moment revealed many keys to nonprofit success. The lessons learned will help leaders prepare for unknown future disruptions, as well as enhancing their ability to advance their missions even in complex times.

Be Tactical: Image of a GPS location pointer indicating a point in a paper map.

If your organization is in a position to help, you may see an increase in demand even while experiencing operational disruption and a drop in fundraising. Focus on what you can do right now with the resources you have.

Communicate & Take care: Image of a dialog box against an abstract field.

It’s critical to keep everyone informed. You may need to use different formats and language to speak to diverse constituents, including staff, board, donors and the population served by your organizations.

Use Technology: Image of a computer with a video button on the screen and soundwaves coming out from the side.

Meetings, conferences and fundraising events can be held remotely with technology platforms – and can even allow you to expand the guest list beyond people who might have attended in-person events. Digital platforms also can deepen and strengthen operational models.

Stay Nimble: Image of an arrow in 3D going over an obstacle and continuing on its path.

Be prepared to adjust expenses, your fundraising model and the focus of your mission – and keep in mind that as you weather the crisis, your needs of your organization and community will continue to evolve and change.

The learnings and best practices below have been gleaned from organizations who not only survived but thrived in 2020, with a focus on operations, communications, fundraising, finances, and leadership.

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Times of uncertainty are unnerving, but organizations with existing plans in place are better positioned to weather them. Nimbleness is important, but equally so is acting in a measured, thoughtful way. Making extreme changes to organizational structure, your endowment model or your staffing can result in potentially unnecessary or unintended future consequences. Organizations caught off-guard by a disruption can take immediate steps to adjust, reduce expenses, leverage partnerships and continue fundraising efforts. Thinking carefully and leveraging your board’s and financial advisor’s expertise can provide continuity in a complex time.

Contact your advisor to learn more.

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