Last week, the Columbus Metropolitan Club held its annual state of nonprofits forum. We heard from our colleagues Lisa Courtice, Michael Corey, Leah Evans, and Dan Sharpe, who were hosted by Deborah Aubert Thomas.
Those of us working in and serving the nonprofit sector know the challenges organizations face today are taking a toll. Increased demand, labor market disruptions, economic volatility, record-level position vacancies, continued pandemic operations, and loss of one-time stimulus money are contributing to fatigue and burnout.
While there was a lot of good discussion at the CMC Forum surrounding these challenges, I want to focus on something that our friend Lisa Courtice said — that maybe it’s time to reimagine what your organization looks like.
If you are struggling with staffing, this might mean that you stop offering a service. The gut reaction to this is, “How can we possibly no longer do X when our mission is Y? We must do X.”
Planned abandonment is not a failure but a strategic decision on human, financial, and capital resource management. When there are thousands of open positions and staff turnover is the highest it’s ever been, focusing on the core is necessary.
It is essential that each nonprofit determine what is core to its mission. What do you offer that is inherent to your purpose and meets a deep community need? Is there something that you do that no one else is doing? Everything that is not core to the mission is fair game to either no longer do or no longer do the way you have.
You may argue that “Our clients need X.” We are not debating that, but it may not have to be you who delivers X to your clientele.
While collaborating with nonprofit partners is something that organizations do every day, we think a higher level of strategic partnership is needed. This could include contracting with another agency to deliver services that are not core to your mission, having another agency’s staff onsite in your facility, sharing back-office services, and/or exploring the possibilities for a merger.
Our team sees the steadfast commitment in the sector from nonprofit leaders. We see their hard work and tenacity. We also see their exhaustion and frustration.
The current pace is neither sustainable nor healthy. You have authority over your work. You have the power to reimagine how programs and services get delivered. You have permission to say no. Your duty to mission fulfillment does not mean you have to do it all on your own.
We know that there are grant agreements, contracts for services, and expectations for how programs get delivered. But history can create powerful inertia with the mindset of “we’ve always done it that way.” It might take a minute to change, but starting the conversation now is critical.
We can’t imagine any funder or stakeholder questioning a change that would include a partner delivering service, especially when it leverages resources and creates clarity of purpose. The challenges of our times demand we reconsider how we operate and how we collaborate.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO