Navigating Times of Change: Part V – Completeness

There’s a place down by the ocean
Where I take my mixed emotions
When my soul’s rocked by explosions
Of these tired times
Where love sings to me slowly
Even when I feel low and lonely
Even when the road feels like
The only friend of mine

One light, one goal
One feeling in my soul
One fight, one hope
One twisting rope
I’m ready to run where the ocean meets the sky

Where all I need is the air I breathe
The time we share and the ground beneath my feet
All I need is the love that I believe in
Tell me love, do you believe in me?

Tell me love, ’cause you’re all I need
Switchfoot (All I Need)

Think of a time in your past that changed who you are. It could be the day your child was born or the moment you received priceless advice from a mentor. It could also be the tragic experience of losing a loved one or the disappointment of being told “no.” Life events—whether big or small—change us, and, hopefully, even the bad ones can shape us and help us grow.

World events can have the same impact. The Coronavirus Crisis of 2020 will definitely be on the list of events that have changed us personally and professionally.

Putting it all together

Because the effects of the pandemic have been ongoing, we are psychologically creating daily memories of the crisis and its effects on our world and the world at large. It’s unlike almost any other world event unless you lived during the Great Depression. We have had more time to contemplate the impacts on us personally, on our workplace and on our organization’s mission.

We’ve discussed the advantages of being thoughtful, or some might say “mindful,” about how we fundraise and how we invest dollars in the development of the donor lifecycle. How we utilize those dollars is a different matter.

Many nonprofits think of using their dollars in budget cycles of 12 months, and the vast majority are incredibly efficient in their spending of those dollars to maximize each program’s effectiveness. In this environment, it would serve us well to contemplate how to best use fundraising budgets in relation to the health of our mission and organizational strength.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Should we have a long-term budget (multiple years adjusted annually)?
  • Should we measure budgets in terms of current and long-term cycles where the long-term cycles would include investment in planned giving and investment returns?
  • How can we rethink how we use planned giving maturities?
    • Are they used for current operations?
    • Are they put into an endowment?
    • Are they split into some thoughtful patterns?

A great way to begin this dialogue is to ask some “what would you do?” questions:

  1. What would you do if you received $1 million today?
  2. What would you do with $20 million?
  3. What would you do with $200 million?

Answers may vary and create lively debate for your executive team, all of which is healthy. Many nonprofits we work with are merely thinking about surviving the short term and tyranny of the urgent. Our clients, however, receive the benefit and understanding of thinking through about what the future will look like, leaning into more than 50 years of gift planning experience and expertise.

(This is Bob speaking.) A good friend of mine was formerly a CFO of a very large nonprofit. During the 1960s and ’70s, this nonprofit decided to put 100% of its planned giving maturities into endowments for conservation. At the time, this was a painful but temporary decision; today, however, that trend left a legacy that built a $2 billion endowment.

Due to the vision and legacy of prior leadership’s vision, on January 1 of each year his organization has north of $200 million in investment revenue for their mission. All because my friend and his organization made a decision based on the future. In other words, leave your legacy right where you are, and you can begin right now.

The experts at Sharpe Group can share our experiences with what has worked over the last 50+ years with our clients as we’ve served them through the good times and bad. We’re here to help you begin creating a legacy for future generations.
 

By Bob Mims, Sharpe Group CFO, and Tom Grimm, Sharpe Group Senior Consultant
 

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