Roadmap to Success in 2021

Recently, Small Shop Fundraising, a podcast hosted by GF&M’s Liz Hack, spoke with the Associate Director at Kentucky Nonprofit Network (KNN), Laura Whitaker. In December of 2020, KNN collected survey responses from nonprofits in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. You can find the survey report and slide links at the bottom of this post.

Admittedly, there were some very dismal numbers from the respondents. For example, 46% of the respondents reported current or expected reduction in services impacting over 900,000 Kentuckians due to lack of funding. 54% of nonprofits reported current or expected increase in the demand for services, resulting in a $13.6 million increase in expenses to date due to Covid-19. So while the need is increasing, the ability to provide services is stagnant or decreasing. How is a nonprofit to survive this environment? Some Kentucky nonprofits haven’t, KNN reported from their survey that 7% of nonprofits have closed their doors for good.

Nonprofits Find Hope

Even in uncertain times, nonprofits find hope through flexibility and partnership. That’s our analysis of how nonprofits will be successful in 2021. Below are four ways to find success:

  1. Willingness to Collaborate with Others
    The saying, “It takes a village” has never been more real for nonprofits than in 2021. In 2020, nearly half the respondents from the survey said they started new collaborations that will be permanent partnerships. My analysis is collaborations were initially formed to help keep costs low but perhaps nonprofits found a new way of providing much needed services. Collaborations, the partnership, can take many forms but there needs to be an openness by staff and board members to allow for partnerships to form. Change is hard especially when being forced to by a world wide pandemic. But an open mind to the partnership possibilities can ease the anxiety of change. How can your nonprofit benefit from collaborations?
  2. Deliberately Find and Recruit Board and Committee Members to Help Build Collaborative Relationships
    Does your nonprofit want to provide services in public schools? Are you interested in partnering with artists, the county jail, homeless shelters, addiction clinics, etc.? My suggestion to you is to then work with your board and volunteers to find ways to connect to those entities and their leadership. Share with them your mission, your goals and make the case for partnering as a win-win for all. And then ask them to join you in bettering the community. They can then champion the idea of the strategic alliance within their organization. What organizations/business entities would your nonprofit find success in partnering with and who can help you get connected to them?
  3. Stay Relevant With Needs In Your Community
    The KNN survey asked respondents what were the top areas of increased need from clients. Out of the 18 areas, the top five in order were:
    – Food Insecurity
    – Housing
    – Mental Health
    – Utilities
    – Employment
    How can your nonprofit support the top needs of your community? Is there a business or nonprofit you can collaborate with to support the increased needs? Collaboration can again provide opportunities for nonprofits to impact growing areas of need in communities. I’m not suggesting to change your mission to try and meet the needs of the now. Rather, creatively consider how your mission can support the growing needs of our communities right now.
  4. Look for Fee for Service Revenue Streams
    As traditional revenue streams, like special events, fail to meet their goals in years past, innovative nonprofits start to build other opportunities. One of them is fee for service or earned revenue opportunity. From the KNN survey many nonprofits are hoping to build or strengthen this income stream as a means to stay open and thrive in 2021.
    How can your nonprofit monetize a program, service or product to diversify your income stream?

These four ways are not silver bullets to success. Merely, four initiatives to consider adding to the mix of other partnerships and other fundraising strategies. With these and other strategies nonprofits can continue to lead communities to better days and creating hope where it was once lost.

A BIG thank you to Kentucky Nonprofit Network for their continued support of nonprofits in Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

KNN Website
KNN Survey Slides
KNN Summary Report

Here’s the link to the podcast episode with Laura Whitaker on Small Shop Fundraising! You can now listen on Apple Podcast!

How To: Plan for the Plan

I just got a survey in the mail from a nonprofit I donate to once or twice a year.  It says it’s an annual survey of all it’s close friends. It also specifically says that amid the current pandemic, my input is very important as “we attempt to navigate through some tough challenges.”

To me, this is a very smart move for this small nonprofit. Instead of guessing at what donors/volunteers want from their favorite nonprofit, they took the time to ask. Taking the time to ask and get feedback streamlines programs, fundraising strategies and marketing later on. It is a very efficient exercise to spend time on planning the plan now and then focusing on what the donor/volunteer/member wants throughout the year.

As we all search for the “new normal” it occurred to me that assuming we (the nonprofit leadership and staff) know what the “new normal” looks like for our donors and other stakeholders is dangerous to the recovery of the nonprofit sector. For example, assuming that your nonprofit should “press pause” on your fundraising annual plan or kicking off a new service or program without getting feedback from those who might support it would be detrimental to the staff who would run it, the participants who would use that program or service and the donors who are passionate about impacting their communities.

Create the time to “take the temperature” of your donors/volunteers and participants before forging ahead on a campaign or program that you think fits the current needs of your constituents. Here are some cost effective ways to implement collecting data and feedback:

  1. USPS- Much like the nonprofit mentioned, you can send a letter with a short (no more than 15 questions) survey. For best response, send a stamped envelope for the surveyor to send back and an option to fill out the survey online.
  2. Online Survey- Email an online survey to your constituents to fill out. With some online survey tools you can add a link to your social media platforms as well. Again, keep it short and simple. No more than 5 to 10 questions.
  3. Facebook Group Poll- Facebook give you the opportunity to poll members of your group. So if your nonprofit has a Facebook group set up, you can poll that audience one question at a time. This is an option for questions and answers that can be shared with anyone since there is no confidentiality.
  4. Face to Face Surveys and Focus Groups- With these types of survey environments, confidentiality can be provided and more in-depth and sensitive questions can be asked without the risk of ruffling feathers.

In all these instances it is important to uncover quality quantitative data and anecdotal evidence of the needs and direction the stakeholders would like to steer the nonprofit. Data that can set benchmarks and begin the goal setting process. Ancillary benefits typically bubble up from a survey process; volunteer leadership and support from unknown sources are uncovered. Unknown but perceived issues, strengths and weaknesses are also uncovered through asking for feedback.

So while we all start to open our businesses and nonprofits again we must take a pause to consider our new normal, learn from our supporters and move forward, together.