The Tension Between Now and the Future

We all want our favorite nonprofit be to successful in 2013 and every year after. The paradox is too much success this year will destroy the future.

Think about the fellow who spends an extra hour every day at the office and extra time on the weekends working on business issues in the hopes of receiving a promotion and a bigger paycheck. The time away from the family seems worth it until one day he notices the family is no longer around to help celebrate his success. Then he realizes he spent too many of today’s hours focusing on today’s career success instead of using those same hours to lay a foundation for a successful family life.

Frequently we see nonprofits that are struggling today because they were too successful in the past. They did a great job of managing finances, ensuring that each year the budget balanced, and managing day-to-day operations. Yet, today they have fewer clients and less donor support.

People expect nonprofits to do more than just produce results, we expect them to produce outcomes that improve the lives of everyone in the community. However, when the emphasis is on carefully managing finances, it is difficult to add programming that brings an additional dimension to the client’s life and strengthens the mission.

Now the nonprofit is trapped in no man’s land. It has nothing new or special to offer so the donors have become disenchanted. It offers less than other nonprofits providing similar services so that clients and donors are going elsewhere.

The solution is to rebalance the priorities. The present should receive some attention but the future must receive the bulk of the attention. Your nonprofit’s future depends on constantly investing in new programming (the mission).

Money follows success. Success is measured by the lives of your alumni rather than your bottom line and operational results.

Next Step:

Determine what tools, attributes, attitudes, and skills your clients will need to live a life that is measured by something other than completion of your program

Add services beyond the basics required to complete your program (help your alumni acquire the necessary tools, attributes, attitudes, and skills)

Convince your donors and alumni to invest in the future of your clients

When you ask donors to support your nonprofit, you are asking donors to buy part of the nonprofit. Do they really want to own part of a nonprofit?

When you ask someone to give to the mission, you are asking them help change someone’s life.  Donors would rather know that their donation meaningfully, measurably, and permanently changes someone’s life. When their donations do that, they become committed to the long-term sustainability of your nonprofit and your mission.


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