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Problem Solving Has Changed

Charity has evolved along the following path:

Personal – One person helping another

Communal – Neighbors banding together to help a neighbor

Structured/Formal – Organizations formed to deliver specific help to individuals with identified needs

Accountable – Donors, clients, stakeholders, and community expecting evidence of success and reporting on the sources and uses of resources

The interconnectedness and overlapping activities have made solving society’s problems more complex.  The limited resources and high demand for services have increased the need for accountability.  Donors are becoming more selective about who they support and how much support they provide.  In addition, donors are demanding evidence that their support is producing the results they feel are important.

Nonprofits are seeing long-time donors cap their support, reduce their support, or walk away.  Luckily, it happens in that order.  As a result, the nonprofit’s sustainability begins a slow decline as patience wears out.  The same is true of other forms of support such as referrals, volunteers, community support, and advocates.

Reversing the decline in support is another one of those complex problems.  It is more than better cultivation, more exciting events, compelling advertising, and a new logo.  Those may help and they may slow the decline but the real solution is creating the meaningful, measurable, and durable solutions donors and communities want.  In addition, it is necessary to have proof (statistics) that the solution is consistent, reproducible, and scalable. Nonprofits must also have compelling anecdotes and a presentation tailored for each of its supporters.

If your nonprofit is like many, it will be months or years before proof is available and it will be difficult to track enough clients to make the statistics meaningful.  In addition, it will be necessary to have new set of skills and processes.  One of the other big challenges is gathering the support necessary to sustain your operations until the proof is available.

Next Step:

Determine the rate of decline of your support base (all forms)

Determine what it will take to change your programing to provide the meaningful, measurable, and durable solution society is now demanding

Determine how your support base wants you to measure and report success

Ask your support base to help you bridge the gap between now and success

Asking your support base to help you determine how to measure and report your success will help you to bridge the gap.  Those who have been concerned about the robustness of your solution will be happy to know you share their concerns.  All of your supporters know that the promise of your mission statement is complex, messy, and time consuming.  Most of them are unaware of how complex, messy, and time consuming it is.  Sharing your plans will raise their awareness and help them to understand that you need more than a little extra support this year.  You need a reliable and sustainable funding stream and stream of volunteers, advocate, and referrals.

Your goal is to inspire your supporters to be a force for good rather than a group of people supporting good work.  When they become a force for good, you will have the generous, loyal, and engaged people you need to ensure your nonprofit has the support it needs to bridge the gap.

Your nonprofit’s sustainability is now closely tied to society’s perception of the sustainability of your solution for one of society’s pressing problems.

Take It Further:

Remind your board that your nonprofit deals with the complex, messy, and time-consuming problems of society

Remind your board that how your community determines your nonprofit’s success has changed

Ask your board to create the long-term plan and strategy necessary to give your community the solution it wants and to gather the support you need to create the solution

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