Several months into the COVID-19 crisis, most not-for-profit organizations have formulated at least a temporary plan for sustaining operations. But short-term solutions should be complemented by long-term strategic planning that reprioritizes objectives. Specifically, your not-for-profit needs to focus on three areas: social impact, economic viability and capacity to deliver. Let’s take a look.
What social impact do you hope to achieve? Your answer to this question may have changed since the beginning of the pandemic. To respond to immediate needs, many organizations have forged new partnerships and shifted how they deliver programs and services. Some are adopting wholesale systemic change.
Take Bread for the City, a Washington, DC not-for-profit that provides food and medical, legal and social services. When it was forced to close its food pantries to the public, the organization arranged for new partners to help distribute groceries to those in need. It also expanded its medical services to include teleconferencing and COVID-19 testing.
Bread for the City reframed its value in the current environment. To invigorate donors, supporters and staffers, you need to do the same. Question why your mission matters now and how you can demonstrate why it matters. For example, an organization that provides athletic programs for inner-city children may be hampered by social distancing guidelines. But with innovation, the not-for-profit may refine its model to offer virtual options and staggered use of venues while communicating the need for physical activity.
To survive the current environment, the best-positioned not-for-profits rely on predicable revenue and keep expenses in line with projections. Successful not-for-profits also have enough cash on hand to cover routine costs and emergencies, as well as a contingency plan for dealing with dire circumstances.
Can your organization make these claims? If not, take the following steps:
During the past few months, COVID-19 restrictions may have forced your organization to switch to virtual operations, scramble to make up for lost volunteers and deal with other capacity challenges. One of the most important factors to surviving an environment where resources are scarce is good leadership. Informed decision making is critical, but sometimes speed is of the essence. Your leaders must have good instincts and know your organization’s capabilities like the back of their own hands. Of course, leaders can’t go it alone. They also need an outstanding support team.
Other factors supporting capacity include:
You may find yourself changing processes and resetting priorities on an ad hoc basis as the pandemic and financial crisis evolve. Just remember to square these changes with your not-for-profit’s larger mission and strategic plan.
Councilor, Buchanan & Mitchell (CBM) is a professional services firm delivering tax, accounting and business advisory expertise throughout the Mid-Atlantic region from offices in Bethesda, MD and Washington, DC.