This and other findings presented at the annual review of St. Louis’ philanthropic landscape were not necessarily surprising. In fact, for those of us working to change the sector, the news affirmed much of what we have been seeing and hearing for years:
- 2009 was the second consecutive year of decreased charitable giving
- Grant makers are putting more emphasis on measurement and evaluation
- Most people give to organizations because they “believe in the mission”
- Donors expect nonprofits to respond to decreased funding by operating more efficiently and developing partnerships
- Donors are more willing than before to fund collaborations, mergers and capacity building
- Nonprofits have responded to the economic downturn by freezing wages, cutting staff, reducing expenses and raising awareness about their programs
- Nonprofits are more willing to collaborate with other organizations that have similar missions in order to reach more people and increase their efficiency/effectiveness
What does this mean for your organization?
- Mission. Mission. Mission. Be faithful to your mission and demonstrate to clients and supporters how your programs and your operations support that purpose.
- Doing good is not enough. In order to be competitive in the search for funding, you need to be able to demonstrate the unique value your organization brings to the community, your good stewardship of the public’s support and how your vision will transform the lives of those you serve.
- Reach out to other organizations that share your mission. Explore the possibilities and be open to trying new things.
- Talk to organizations across mission spaces and sectors – innovations, transferable knowledge and replicable solutions exist in industries and organizations outside your silo.
- Operate from an assumption of abundance. It will make working with other nonprofits and suggesting changes in your own organization less threatening.
- Be honest with yourself. Could you serve more people, reach more audiences, change more lives if you worked with other groups? Are the right people doing the right jobs in your organization? Why do you do what you do the way you do it – how else might you achieve the same or better results in less time or with less money?
- Demonstrating your effectiveness goes beyond evaluating the good work of your programs. It also means measuring organizational outcomes, having performance improvement plans and connecting financial and program goals.