Will Nonprofits Become Irrelevant?

Hill Air Force Base 2004 Air ShowThere’s a disturbing trend I’ve seen lately with nonprofit groups I’ve been talking to lately. I was hoping it was just me. But a conversation this morning has made me realize it might be bigger than I thought. And its a trend I believe could cause nonprofits to begin a downward spiral.

Now, I know not all organizations are engaging in this behavior. And hopefully the experience in your area of the country is much different that what I’m seeing.

Here it is: there seems to be a belief that if we continue to cut costs, we’ll continue saving money. Unfortunately, continued cost cutting will often only speed up the demise of an organization. Without investing in forward-thinking activities, all we have time for is to struggle to continue those things we decided to spend time on five years ago (when we last had time to think through forward-thinking activities). Unfortunately, the world has changed. And with that change comes the need to do different activities. So here we are – trying to accomplish the same things, with fewer resources, and with an outdated program plan.

Its a scarcity mindset that is rooted in feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. I think you know what I’m talking about. It’s that point we get to when we think that, no matter what we do, things don’t have the ability to turn around. That all is a lost cause.

But at the same time, there are organizations, even in this tough economic time, that are growing. Maybe not flourishing, but building a strong base of support and thinking thoughtfully through program planning and fundraising planning. These organizations are choosing to continue being relevant by looking forward, rather than looking over their shoulder.

We have a choice. How do you want people to describe your organization?


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