Earlier this week, the White House released “budget blueprint” for the upcoming fiscal year. While not a formal budget, it offered guidance on White House priorities that included eliminating 9 important federal agencies and many other funding sources (like CSBG and CDBG). I read the 62-page budget blueprint and wrote an extensive blog post yesterday, which you can read here.
With one party in control of the legislative and executive branches, a tsunami of change is inevitable and will impact nearly every nonprofit organization. Like all great storms, the change will come in strong waves: first regulations will get looser or tighten, then funding will rise or fall, and collateral damage on individual households and organizations will be felt throughout the sector.
While paradoxical, some organizations will benefit from the pending changes, others will be at a disadvantage, and the most adaptable organizations will emerge stronger and more resilient than before.
As a nonprofit consultant, podcaster, and supporter, I have been very surprised by the number of nonprofit organizations continuing with “business as usual”.
To continue the storm analogy, it feels like organizations have been warned a major storm is coming, but they are not filling sandbags, recruiting people to help, and identifying ways to stormproof their organizations. With their grant contracts secure for another 12 – 24 months, they aren’t currently preparing for possible government funding cuts of 25% - 100%.
This lack of action is understandable because so many organizations aren’t even sure where to start, but most organizations still have time to act. For this reason, I’ve outlined five steps your organization can take now to position your organization for changing times:
#1: Invest in Fundraising!
The two most important factors in fundraising success are developing a plan and having the appropriate staff. For this reason, allocate the funds necessary to evaluate your fundraising efforts, create (or revise) your fundraising plan, and hire the right staff to implement this plan.
Some organizations, such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, have even used the current rhetoric as a rallying cry to raise more funds. The daily news coverage of dramatic policy changes gives them a new reason to solicit donors every morning!
Remember: the ability to raise more funds from individuals will always serve your mission well.
#2: Get Media Ready!
Regardless of your mission, reporters will want to speak with those impacted by policy decisions. Prepare your organization by identifying spokespeople, crafting talking points, preparing clients to speak with reporters, and letting reporters know you can offer real people impacted by policy who are also ready to be interviewed.
When pitching ideas to the media, remember that your organization’s story is best told through people you serve. For example, people are more likely to learn about 300 low-income clients losing health insurance if one brave patient is willing to tell her story to the local news.
#3: Prepare to Advocate!
Empower your board members, volunteers, donors and clients to advocate for policies that promote and support your mission. Specifically, ask them to call legislators when relevant legislation is being considered and make sure they know how to submit public comment to local, state, and Federal agencies that are legally required to consider citizen input before changing policy.
#4: Join an Association!
In addition to joining your state or local nonprofit resource center, actively participate in an association for organizations with similar missions and services. You should expect your mission-based association will alert you of pending legislation, policy changes, and court decisions that will impact all organizations providing similar services.
Joining an association will benefit your organization in many other areas. In fact, an effective association will provide your organization with technical assistance, leadership development, program development, and fundraising support specific to your mission and the services you provide.
#5: Revisit your strategic plan!
When the environment changes, it is always a good idea to review and revise your plan. If your organization’s funding may get cut by 15% or the demand for your service may increase by 10%, it is better to plan for the possibility before it becomes a reality.
If your organization’s environment changes dramatically, however, you may need to begin a new strategic planning process. This is especially true if your organization is in the high-risk red zone on the Trump Risk Matrix below: