The Struggling Non-Profit

Creative Tips, Thought Leadership

The work of non-profits has in 2020 seen myriad challenges. Certainly, because of the nature of their organizations, non-profits are no strangers to struggle and defects. However, the on-going effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have placed non-profits in an even more vulnerable position. The burning question is what can be done to secure their future.

One of the foundations of a non-profit is its reputation.

Each non-profit is based on noble efforts. Its creation, whether it is paying homage to a cause or person, is usually based on providing much-needed services or developing society. Additionally, as far as reputation goes, nonprofits need to maintain their objectives and continue to receive society’s buy-in and more importantly donor buy-in. For the failing non-profit, reverting to its initial purpose and rejuvenating its waning reputation is the first step. Reaching out to past supporters with both warm messages and firm plans to reinstate the original purpose of the non-profit is necessary. Many times communication may have suffered. In the current COVID-19 environment, many non-profits find themselves unsure of the direction in which they should venture. It may not, however, be a direction as much as it is a foundation. The initial dream of the organization should be reviewed and communicated to supporters. 

Another issue which many non-profits may experience is waning leadership

This aspect has to do a great deal with strategy. A motivated board that is experienced can provide the necessary transformational leadership for work in the non-profit to be both engaging and fruitful. This also has to do with the culture in the organization. What has the non-profit cultivated in terms of its organizational culture? Has it cultivated healthy self-assessment along with an accountable board and management?

If COVID-19 has taught us anything it is that non-profits need long-term solutions. Strategic decisions which are also realistic in nature and suitable in the current economic climate of that particular territory. Therefore, a solution may be to actively and consistently review the Board of Directors and to assess whether the organization has mature leadership, knowledgeable and capable of leading its transformation. Further, this assessment of the board should also entail the assessment of its operational management structures. Persistence is the driving force of improvement. Ensuring that leadership and management are all aligned to the strategic plans and that all agree on realistic objectives of the non-profit are both vital. 

Adaptation is an important element in the non-profit movement and survival.

This element is even more important given the current economic and social climate globally. For many non-profits, if not all, communication of goals and proliferation of information for the benefit of the public is important. The world has evolved in the past six months, and while we were involved in our own survival and rightfully so, we have forgotten about those organizations which have been working for us pre-COVID-19. Non-profits for the most part have diverted their movement online. Those who have not may need to reassess their direction. Virtualize, digitize, and monetize may be the best route to remedy failing non-profits. COVID-19 is a crisis in every sense of the word. It has shown us the expediency with which the world can change. Funding has become minimal and the direction of investment has changed. Platforms require less human contact but the community remains important. How then can non-profits redirect their actions and still maintain their mission and vision? The answer may lie in the virtual platforms being offered. Organizations such as non-profits may need to create their own crisis management teams. While the Board of Directors still holds the relative final say in direction, the establishment of a separate team may be a much-needed neutral starting point for the non-profit. 

Redirecting the aims to a more digitized platform where supporters can access information, and make possible donations without actual contact is useful for a society surviving COVID-19.

People want to hear from non-profits and establishing a forum for this is important. The positive is that many of these platforms are free and one can recreate a website at a minimal cost. Social media forums have made it possible for non-profits to be in touch with their supporters by sharing stories and hosting Live events. Monetization can take the form of GoFundMe pages, virtual fundraisers, and academic lectures which can be viewed after donation. 

With all of the strategies outlined, one of the most pertinent is the sordid detail of coin. In general, non-profits have two general sources of cash flow: grants or donations and service fees. During the pandemic many non-profits have experienced a decrease in their service-oriented cashflow, and particularly those  which depend on human interaction and direct contact. According to Jennifer Gill, journalist for the Wallace Foundation, non-profits need to ask themselves a simple question: “Do you have a valuable product for this new operating environment?” Added to this, there is also the question of what are the possible implications for the expenses of the organization. Though non-profits invariably need to walk a fine line financially in order to maintain their status, monetizing their services in order to sustain their projects is crucial. The answers to these questions vary. There is no real uniformity in the solutions since the objectives of non-profits are diverse. The only constant is that technology needs to be wholeheartedly applied in order for non-profits to move into the 21st Century. As non-profits weigh their options and consider their future it is essential that they remember the initial reason for their creation. From this they can begin their rebirth and move carefully into this new Covid and hopefully pre-covid era. 

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