Managing Through Tough Times
Nonprofits, Funders, and COVID-19
This special collection of resources offers nonprofits, funders, and impact investors guidance on confronting the immediate demands of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as well as its longer-term economic and societal consequences. Go to the special collection >>
Eight Steps for Managing Through Tough Times
At some point, all nonprofits face their own version of "tough times." Maybe it's a sector-wide challenge, like a recession, a shock distinctive to the fields or locations a nonprofit serves, or an organization-specific hardship, such as the loss of a major funder’s support. No matter the cause, tough times force hard choices. We offer eight steps that can help nonprofits weather economic uncertainty. In truth, these practices can help any organization stay in shape any time.
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Also in this update:
Case Study: Pressley Ridge
When the Family First Prevention Services Act passed in 2018, it provided momentum for some of Pressley Ridge’s services while squeezing funding for other facets of the nonprofit’s work. Here’s how this child-welfare organization navigated the changing landscape.
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Case Study: Prosperity Now
Prosperity Now had prepared scenario plans to deploy should “routine” financial stresses emerge. But that mattered little when the political climate changed. Facing a $1 million deficit going into the 2018 fiscal year, and with federal contracts continuing to decline, the nonprofit created a four-pronged approach to financial sustainability.
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This collection of evergreen resources shares information and approaches for managing an organization during tough economic times.
- Four Questions for Charities to Answer as They Seek to Thrive in Hard Times: All organizations should ask themselves these questions as they cope with tough times. (2009)
- The Strategic Value of a Shared Understanding of Costs: This Bridgespan classic reinforces the importance of economic clarity during times of both financial health and weakness. (2009)
- Making Sense of Nonprofit Collaborations: Tough economic times can be the time to take some classic advice to heart: don’t go it alone. This article explores the benefits of and barriers to successful collaborations. (2014)
- Nonprofit Finance Fund’s State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey: These survey findings are a widely cited barometer of US nonprofits' programmatic, operational, and financial health. (2018)
- Open Road Alliance's 2017 Roadblock Analysis Report: The Open Road Alliance offers short-term loans and grants to nonprofits facing unexpected financial hardships that threaten impact. This study captures the reasons applicants reach out for its support. Funder-created obstacles top the list. (2018)
- Race Matters Institute’s Racial Equity Impact Analysis: Decisions around “what matters most” during difficult times must be viewed through a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens, to ensure that a variety of identities and viewpoints contribute to an organization’s vision and work. This tool includes five racial equity questions for weighing policy and personnel decisions.
- The Raymond John Wean Foundation's "Ten Steps to Effective Crisis Management for Nonprofit Organizations": Open and frequent communications during tough times are one of the best ways to keep teams engaged and focused on those they are helping—and not the organization’s woes. Here’s how to build a team and a plan for managing through a crisis. (2018)
- Fundraising in Tough Times: This article explores what fundraisers can do to help minimize the impact of a difficult period on their organizations. (Mal Warwick, Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2009)
- Coping with Cutbacks: The Nonprofit Guide to Success When Times Are Tight: This book offers practical ways to involve business, government, and other nonprofits to solve problems together. It provides a six-step process for coming up with solutions to problems—financial or otherwise—that your organization is facing. (Emil Angelica and Vincent Hyman, Turner Publishing Company, 1997)