Speaking with nonprofit audiences recently in Chicago, Cincinnati and Los Angeles, I’ve heard the sounds of people struggling to make decisions in the face of uncertainty and wrestling with organizational and personal choices.
There are two important ideas that are often missing from these conversations. First is the idea (discussed in a previous Blue Avocado article): Do less with less. Doing "more with less" is usually not a sustainable strategy. And ultimately, we can only do what the community supports us to do:
Every year Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco gives away turkeys at Christmas. This last year they gave away more than 5,000 turkeys, but they ran out. They did not ask staff to buy 20 turkeys each with their own money, nor did they feel it was their fault that they had "only" 5,000 turkeys. They had done their absolute best to get turkeys donated, and they gave out what they had. All of us can do the same: work as hard as we can to get support, and then accept that we may not be able to do more.
The second missing idea is that we can learn from our past experiences everything we need to know about how to work effectively while not meeting all the need. Somehow we’re acting as if we used to be able to meet the need, but now with funding cuts we can’t. Actually, for most human service organizations, we were never able to meet the need. How did we manage under those circumstances? Every organization has its own answer, but we each need to reflect on what we’ve learned and remember we can put it to use now, too.
Not all our organizations will weather this storm. But our causes and our work will endure. We are worried about some dance troupes, but we need not worry about dance. We are worried about a few community centers, but the community development movement will continue. We will prevail.
Also in this issue: an energetic look at strategies for arts organizations, an unusual way to combine fundraising with losing weight, a nonprofit poetry slam, and a 3-Minute Vacation to a dance performance inspired by Abraham Lincoln. What more could you ask for! — Jan Masaoka