By Bob Mims, Sharpe Group CFO
What we have learned about planning for future crises
We are seeing the evidence with 20/20 hindsight that perhaps we did not plan well for a pandemic. Personally, I wish I had an extra bottle of hand sanitizer or wipes; I’m so thankful that my wife makes it a habit to purchase extra cleaning supplies for our storage room. Planning for future unknowns is a truth that translates to our companies as well.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve consulted with a large company (more than 200,000 employees) that was largely unprepared for a “work from home” solution.
Hindsight vision or “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” is all fine and well, but what is your nonprofit supposed to do now? This is the question reigning the day in nearly all my conversations with nonprofit colleagues. Here’s what we suggest:
Consult with the experts.
Sound too simple? Maybe so, but the thoughtful nonprofits are doing this right now.
Nonprofits engaging each other
I participated on a conference call in early March with 20 environmental nonprofit executives who shared their issues, challenges and possible solutions. The most profound moment of that call came at the end, when one of the participants suggested this same group meet every two weeks to do the same thing. The first call was filled with questions on how to handle work-from-home solutions. The second meeting, two weeks later, continued with a thorough discussion on medium-term decisions for the good of their respective organizations.
Nonprofits engaging development/fundraising experts
Planning for your fundraising future is likely more critical than the short-term solutions provided by the CARES Act. Having a clear 20/20 hindsight vision is essential to build your long-term fundraising plans.
I have listened to many nonprofit executives speak to how difficult it may be to begin budgeting for next year. One voice in that conversation was particularly helpful: “We are really beginning to take a hard look at the entire budgeting approach and whether the old budgeting style is appropriate for our organization.” I never thought I’d hear those words come out of a CPA’s mouth!
The same suggestion can be given to development professionals. Is now perhaps the right time to rethink your organization’s approach to its investment in fundraising?
Major and event-based giving
Economic downturns usually have a large impact on major and event-based giving. Often, these impacts are felt during the budget process, and, unfortunately, they can directly impact a nonprofit’s mission. Communication and exercising empathy with your donors and their families is crucial during this time. Now may not be the time to discuss their pledges. Instead, ask them how they are doing. I recently began a conversation with a nonprofit executive by assuring her that I was not making a sales call; rather, I simply wanted to see how she and her family were coping.
In your planning, I recommend looking at the long term so your organization can help your donors create charitable giving solutions that align with their personal situations and support their passion for your mission. This may be in the form of deferring gifts (until the market returns), or it could be in suggesting “blended gifts” which incorporate both major and planned giving in a way that benefits both parties.
There are no simple or easy solutions to the current environment. Part two of this article, posted on our blog, will dive into planned giving solutions and information on how nonprofits can engage banking experts. Click here for part two. ■