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Your 2021 Nonprofit Survival Guide


Your organization has made it to the end of 2020. Now what? After this year, deciding to keep moving forward is possibly the hardest the decision you can make…but it is also the most beneficial.


With all that this strange year has thrown at you, you’re still here. Your nonprofit has possibly thrived, stayed steady, or might be barely hanging on by a thread. There were many other organizations that were unable to keep going. The good thing is you’re still here. You’ve made it this far, so how do you make it into and through next year? Simple. Decide you’re gong to make it…and then plan for it.

Honestly evaluate your situation.

Be brutal in your assessment. The year is almost over, and you need to know where your organization stands. How is your revenue? Is it down? If so, by what percentage? Have you adjusted your spending accordingly? This sounds like common sense. But, it’s not as common as it should be. If it was, the average family wouldn’t be in debt up to their eyeballs. Getting a handle on where your nonprofit is financially is the first, concrete step to stabilizing the patient. This may include having to make some tough decisions next year. You may have to let some people go. You may have to scale back a program or two. That’s OK. It is difficult, but it’s a whole lot better than rushing headlong into a brick wall.

Make parallel plans.

OK, you’ve made the tough financial choises. That’s really big…many can’t bring themselves to do it, but you did (or will). So, now what? Try making parallel plans. By that I mean make one plan that reflects a prolonged financial downturn. For plan #2, stretch it out a bit. Suspend disbelief for a little while and imagine this thing turning around in 6 to 9 months. The reality is that no one really know what is going to happen. Be prepared either way. Whenever this thing does turn around, and it will eventually, your nonprofit shouldn’t find itself trying to ramp up to a new reality. Prepare for it now.

Assess your programs.

Assess whether your programs are still doing the purpose the organization was created for in the first place. The purpose of the nonprofit is why you are in operation, and the programs should still be presenting that original purpose to the public. Determine if any programs need to change, stay the same, or get updated to be an illustration of why the nonprofit was originally formed. Next, though, make sure that what you’re doing is valuable now. Not, was it valuable two years ago? But, is it now? Some programs may have been useful in the past, but with all of the changes that have occurred this year, maybe your programs should, too.

Don't disappear.

Make sure your donors and volunteers know you haven’t closed shop. If you’ve one into hiding, get back out there. Use your email and social media platforms to let everyone know that your nonprofit has made it through this tough year and that you intend to start the following year even better than ever. That’s no small feat, so don’t let it go unnoticed. Stay relevant. Relevancy is critical to maintaining a donor base, and you might be able to scrape up some unexpected donations while you’re at it. There’s still time. Even more importantly, relevancy is critical to accomplishing your mission.

If your nonprofit was needed, and useful to the public, before the year went awry, keep it moving forward as next year shows its cards. When things improve, don’t go back on cruise control. Stay sharp, stay focused, and stay efficient.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. We are a 3 year old Community Coalition that is growing. CURE is the Coalition for Understanding Racism through Education. We are focused on educating our community around historical and systemic racism in the US. We are 3 years old and in the last year partnered with our local Lions Club who offered to serve as our fiscal sponsor. We are an All volunteer organization. Our leadership is made up of women, many of whom have full-time jobs and most of whom still have children at home. However, since the killing of George Floyd and the massive growth and attention to the Black Lives Matter movement, more and more people and organizations are coming to us for guidance. We focus on the resources of national experts and providing spaces for ‘Uncomfortable Conversations’ around race. It has become clear that we need to pursue 501c3 status and have been mentored by another of your clients Meg Kaufer who runs the STEM initiative in our town, Larchmont, NY. We would like to understand the difference between working with you and filing on our own. Meg suggested speaking to Ken Hughes. We are eager to get your insight and move forward.
    Thank you,
    Stacy DiCristofaro
    CURE Leadership Team

    1. Thanks for reaching out, Stacy. I’m glad Meg referred you. Ken is retired from Foundation Group now, but we have incredible people here who can help. The real issue is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Starting a nonprofit on your own is technically possible, but usually ill-advised if you’re not thoroughly knowledgeable about nonprofit law and compliance. It’s worth the investment to work with a firm that can help you get things set up right the first time and avoid the landmines. I recommend you call our main line at 615-361-9445 and ask to speak with one of our reps about nonprofit startup. We won’t hard sell you, I promise. You’ll enjoy the conversation. Best of success to you!

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