Nonprofits play a critical role across the country. They represent, serve and advocate for a great diversity of individuals, families and causes. They are joined in this work by foundations and corporations who provide money, resources, connections and technical assistance. In many cases it is through the work of nonprofits that foundations and corporations live into their missions: nonprofits are one way that the actual work gets done.
Nonprofits and funders are natural partners. Yet there is always the reality that nonprofits solicit and funders give. This is one of many dynamics involved in the solicitation and granting of funds. Other dynamics include who gets to define the impact a nonprofit makes; how many nonprofits a community needs; and the reasons behind why some organizations are funded and others aren’t.
Foundations and corporations will comment about nonprofits that lack visionary leadership, sustainability and business plans, and boards that fundraise. Nonprofits will comment on inequities in giving, changing guidelines, and limited timeframes to demonstrate “impact.”
Our comments can keep us from looking at the bigger picture. What does our community need to thrive? What investments and innovations are required to move the needle on poverty, homelessness and hunger? Are we giving enough to create change, or just enough to say we gave?
Are we as funders giving to organizations based on a checklist of causes we need to support for purposes of brand and image? Do we understand the many community needs and the multiplicity of organizations addressing them? How do we help address issues of capacity, technology and general infrastructure? These impact service delivery, research and advocacy but often go unfunded. Finally, how do we define equity in giving and what do we require in return?
Are we as nonprofits asking for enough investment? Are we asking enough funders? And, are we asking ourselves the right questions? Do we need to innovate? Do we need to merge? Do we need to change leadership or revise what collaboration and partnership looks like? Are we seeking to keep our doors open when the funds we receive could yield a greater impact if invested elsewhere? Is our focus our own organization or the people we serve?
These are hard questions we all need to ask. Nonprofits and funders are focused on philanthropy: the love of mankind. We need each other. And our communities need us: let’s put them first.
Copyright 2017 – Mel and Pearl Shaw