(This post is from Marilyn Hoyt, nonprofit executive, consultant, and trainer. Marilyn regularly teaches courses for the Foundation Center at locations throughout the nation, including our Proposal Writing Seminar and Securing Corporate Partnerships class.)
We are all hungry to know what the future holds, even though we may already have a gut assumption about 2010: It will not be as tough as 2009 as we slog our way to a “new” normal.
Informal trends I’m observing around the country:
1) Tough times tend to increase staffing volatility. My husband and I were part of the influx of nonprofit talent that came to New York in the late 1970s as replacements for the nonprofit professionals who departed during the sharp economic downturn that happended mid-decade. This big wave of transition in the sector gave us terrific 30-year NYC careers, so shakeups in staffing aren’t all bad all the time. Nonetheless, we need to prepare ourselves and our organizations now for the staffing disruptions that coincide with and follow deep recessions.
If you are seeing vacancies in high profile nonprofit positions picking up momentum in your area (college presidents, museum directors, nonprofit CEOs, etc.), that could be the signal that the transition is underway. This shift will ultimately affect all levels of our institutions.
Now is the time to write down procedures and document work flow, so that our organizations can accommodate staff changes quickly and successfully. Now is also the time to identify our most valuable employees and allow them to shine. Give them more influence; vary their tasks; let them know they are valued. This can diminish the chances of their leaving.
2) Like small business, a lot of us are analyzing our customers and donors and focusing our mailing lists, meetings, and staff time in directions where potential return on investment is the greatest.
3) Many of us are seeing delayed payments for contracted work and grants from both private and public sources. As a checklist in the magazine Governing noted: "Live within your means. Look to the future. Stop deferring expenses.... Set up a rainy day fund."
4) There's a federal stimulus going on, and the nonprofit sector is still wending its way in. We haven't missed the boat. The National Science Foundation, NOAA, and U.S. Department of Education have announced major funding available for educational activities that nonprofits outside of school districts and universities can apply for. Likewise, the state offices for recovery funding are better organized now and easy to find online.
5) This is the time to network, network, network, with colleagues and with our peers in our national associations. Many of the larger gifts and other financial resources that I hear are flowing into nonprofits are coming as a result of networking.
There is a lot of information out there:
Here are articles and reports that I am finding useful right now:
- Down but Not Defeated: Results of GuideStar's Eighth Annual Economic Survey
- Millenials: A Portrait of Generation Next
- Model-based Small Area Income & Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) for School Districts, Counties, and States (U.S. Census)
- Social Networking and Mid-Sized Nonprofits: What's the Use?
- Six Million More Seniors Using the Web than Five Years Ago
- Weathering the Storm: The State of Corporate Citizenship, 2009