In my last post, I shared four things that donors—who I prefer to call “partners”— wish they could say to nonprofit organizations. I wrote that partners want to be educated, that they can handle bad news, that they value partnership, and that a simple thank you can go a long way.
Today I want to flip things around and consider the partner-nonprofit relationship from the nonprofit leader’s point of view. So without further ado, here are four pieces of advice that nonprofit organizations would give to partners:
1. We cannot be all things to all people. Every day, we are pulled and tugged with proposals and expansion opportunities. We earnestly consider the opportunities that are presented, but we cannot pursue every idea. Resources are limited, but more importantly, we need to stay focused on the mission and vision of our work. This is not to say that your idea does not have merit, but simply that we’re not the organization to see it come to fruition.
2. Meaningful accountability is not cheap. We join you in wishing that every dollar we receive could go straight towards our “boots on the ground” program. But if we really expounded on that thought, we would quickly realize our folly. Without audits, accountants, board meetings, and gifted administrators, our well-intended efforts would turn into chaos. When we value accountability, we are saying that we not only want to care for our community, but we want to do it with excellence. If you hear that your favorite nonprofit used a Groupon for their annual audit… well, that might not be a good thing.
3. Become a “grocery list” partner. Driving to the grocery store without a plan is a disaster in the making. You’ll come home with a bunch of food, but none of the ingredients you need to make meals for the week. The smart approach is to think through the meals you want for the week, create a list of the needed ingredients, and then go to the grocery store. The same principle applies to engaging with nonprofits. Most likely, you already know the causes and issues you’re passionate about. Rather than waiting for organizations to contact you, make a yearly plan with your family about how you want to partner with and support nonprofit organizations. Not only will this approach be a breath of fresh air to the organizations you partner with, it will also give you a chance to incorporate community service into your schedule.
4. We need your encouragement and prayers. Most people that work in the nonprofit world are perpetual optimists. They see potential in the most hopeless situations. They are undaunted by complex problems and are constantly making lemonade out of lemons. So it can be hard for an optimist to admit when they are discouraged. Even though we may not always be asking for it, we need your encouraging words. Make an appointment at your local nonprofit, bring your contact a pumpkin spice latte, and express your gratitude for their work in the community.
Again, as I said last time, above all we need grace for each other. Impacting families and dealing with the root issues that destroy communities is not easy work. Keep short accounts. Be amiable towards one another, gentle in speech, slow to become angry. After all, injustice and poverty thrive where cynicism and skepticism are left unchecked. But when partners and nonprofits realize they’re on the same team—and take steps to truly work together—there’s no telling what might happen.
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