Monday, May 02, 2011

How and Where Resources Exist to Keep One Step Ahead For Prudent, Conservative, and Effective Budgeting and Planning in the Rebounding Economy

It feels like one step forward, two steps back, and then another step forward, and so on.  As the economy slowly recovers, it is difficult for nonprofits to plan out, budget for, and feel somewhat confident proceeding with fundraising.  The safest bet is to remain conservative in one's financial estimates, continue to cut as much spending as possible, lessen expenses without negatively impacting the organization's mission and its goals, and to save.

Even still, there are questions.

Will new economic growth remain slow for five years, ten, or only two?  How will an economic recovery, its speed, and its impact effect our: hiring, future organizational growth, and our ability to meet goals and achieve benchmarks?

These and all other related questions are not just pertinent, right now, they are of course prudent.

How can a nonprofit leader, then, responsibly, realistically, and somewhat reasonably be effective when working on a nonprofit's immediate goals?

__ For the geographic region that the organization both operates in and serves (and sometimes these are different (i.e. an American organization that serves a specific region in Africa)) leadership should be reading the local newspapers keeping attention focused on the local economy(ies) and forecasts for those.

__ Never forget the myriad tools that Google offers to the general public.  Create a free, quick, and easy Google Alert through which you can create a widget that reads the Web at your preferred interval (i.e. each week) and gathers the links for sites that discuss anything that you wish to regularly search the Internet for (i.e. a single word, term, or phrase).  You create one by following their quick and easy prompts.  So, if you wish to know what is being discussed each week about say "philanthropy" in a specific geographic region such as perhaps "Saline County, Missouri" then create a Google Alert for those two phrases and it will e-mail to you (weekly) a list of everything new that week, on the web, that includes those two phrases.  Or, if you want to know what people are saying about your organization, create an Alert for its name; do you want to stay on top of what's being said about you online, do the same; or if you wish to follow what is being said about the beneficiaries of the nonprofit that you work for, create an Alert with appropriate search phrase(s) that will result in locating what's being said about them (or those).  In other words, use the search term you would type into a search engine to locate whatever it is you wish to follow weekly online.

__ Talk to colleagues who volunteer with or work for other nonprofit organizations, or government agencies, or companies whose work is related to the work of the organization you are working for. Keep networking always.

__ Read the printed and online materials of professional affiliations related to the work your nonprofit does (i.e. advocacy, research, public oversight and reporting, etc.) ; also keep up on the latest best practices, thinking, and goings on for those professional affiliations related to the specific job you do for the organization (i.e. volunteer management, bookkeeping, executive, fundraising, etc.); keep up, too, on business groups and their thinking in the geographic regions your organization fundraises in and serves.

__ Always keep in touch with others working or volunteering with other nonprofits that work in the same region that your organization serves and raises funds in (whether they work with nonprofits doing similar work or not). It's good to know what other nonprofits are currently dealing with, how they're approaching various challenges, what they are finding works and what hasn't, and who they are working with that they find helpful, etc.  This kind of networking is not industry-specific but rather general and concerned with just knowing what is going on with other nonprofits and sharing the same.

__ Stop by pertinent public libraries, visit their Reference Desk or Department, and be sure to keep up on what studies have been done most recently in the region.  The data and statistics that public agencies but sometimes others publish and their findings can often provide very current and extremely invaluable information about a given region's population, needs, and where holes exist in public services or how accessible those are, and this information can truly help update or keep a given nonprofit current in its mission and goals.

__ Learn how to understand local and regional economic forecasts (located in everything from national and local media and reputable websites to local banking and those banks' studies, findings, reports, and forecasts).

As the economy slowly recovers, there is great hope.  The hope, in financial terms, should be buoyed with a healthy concern for hedging one's optimism, padding the 'rainy day fund', and saving where one can for a nonprofit's best interests.

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