Sunday, December 21, 2008

Nonprofit Professionals Will Get Us Through This; That's You and Me

Have a Merry Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and a Happy Winter Solstice! We wish everyone best wishes in 2009!

It has been an exceptional year in many many ways. Without a doubt, 2008 has presented the most difficult economy for nonprofits to operate in, during my career. The downside, of course, is that many nonprofits across the United States, are being forced to reduce services, merge, or (sadly) close permanently. Nonprofits fill all kinds of voids such as complacency, indifference, lack of access, little research, poor or no funding, lack of public knowledge, lack of expertise, infringements on legal oversight, etc. Nonprofits are often a last hope for many. As nonprofit organizations, ours' is an extended hand and it is staggering to think that many of those hands will be removed from our communities. Amid most governments' budget cuts, reduced donating, financial instability, financial scandals, and an uncertain economic outlook - we're all sort of sitting up a little more straight in the chair, and gripping the sides of the seat.

The up side to this kind of adversity is that we're all going through this together. Adversity can unite and unify and has already begun to. In the face of a challenge Americans, historically, have risen to the struggle innovating, pulling together, and sticking in the fight. This economy has forced the very same amongst nonprofits, across the United States. Professional nonprofit affiliations are hosting all kinds of nonprofit forums to provide a public commons for us nonprofit professionals come together for an hour or two to discuss the financial issues we, individually, are facing at each of our organizations, and to then share or brainstorm solutions. Out of adversity comes exceptional leaps forward in theory, method, and best practices. Despite how concerned I am for this country's nonprofit sector, I look forward to learning about your innovation, new methods, and learning about what you 'invented' and shared, in effect, adding to our sector's best practices. Yes, I'm looking at you. Where else does this unification, brainstorming, trial and error, innovation, and discovery come from? I'm standing right next to you, on this front line, doing my work to move us all forward, too.

Despite these difficulties, we must keep the very inspiration, passion, or whatever the flame is, inside you, that brought you to the nonprofit sector alive in ourselves and one another. We've attempted to be there for you and your organization by providing our 'free consultations' series, these past months, on this blog. It isn't a time to horde knowledge or expertise. Our communities' weakest, most under-represented, or disenfranchised are at risk. If your local United Way or just some unofficial but sincere group of nonprofit leaders, in your community, is getting nonprofit representatives together to discuss the challenges of this economy - consider joining that talk. Be there for that brown bag lunch. Make time after work, that evening. Move that meeting, or whatever you need to do to be a part of the solution making. You may think that you have nothing new or innovative to contribute; but who knows, before they discover or innovate something new that they were about to? In a discussion with our professional colleagues, you'll likely learn something new that you and your organization could use in these tough times; and listening to others who also live and work in your community may stimulate ideas or resources that you just haven't thought of (yet), on your own. Despite a common misconception that we are all competing for the exact same single donation dollar; we can come together, as professionals in the same sector, to share. The truth is that donors give to different causes, in different geographic locations, for different reasons. We are not all competing for one donor's single dollar. Also, donors give to what they are passionate about and often that's more than one cause or issue. We are all developing donors interested in our organization's single cause and the work that our organization succeeds at. Be confident in your constituency's dedication and open up to the community, for the sake of each and all of our organizations' missions.

It's a difficult time, but we can be there for one another, even as professionals. Your organization, the organization down the street, and my organization benefits when you and I show up for the 'fight'. In 2009 keep your eyes on the horizon. Watch for the innovation and new professional nonprofit best practices that comes out of this tough economy.

No comments: