7 Tips for Facing the Future

Katherine Profile PictureAs a recent grad, I am constantly reminded of the future.

Many graduates feel a mix of emotions, both excitement about the possibilities of the future and the fear of a totally new routine and the overwhelming “what am I going to do now???”

So for my last post as intern here at the PCNRC, I want to talk about the future.

How can an organization prepare for the future in order to thrive no matter what life throws its way?

Here are 7 things to think about.

1. Adapt to Curve balls

It’s common knowledge that the Great Recession dealt a significant financial blow to nonprofits. Yet, some nonprofits applied the adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and faced the adversity with creativity and adaptability. The July 2015 issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy goes into detail about how certain organizations reacted during the Great Recession: a theater stuck with making bold choices in programming, a foundation changed its giving focus, a food stand diversified its revenue. When facing the curve balls thrown at your organization, remember the importance of both creativity and adaptability. These two factors have helped individuals face and conquer challenges, and they can do the same for your organization.

2. Embrace Innovation and Collaboration

An organization might spend its whole life span battling the same problem. But just because the problem stays the same, that doesn’t mean the solutions have to. “Significant changes come about when people dare to think beyond the immediate crisis {and} propose bold solutions” – Peter Dreier.

Recently I have read about nonprofit organizations and collaborations that take a new approach or combine forces to tackle issues. In some cases it makes perfect sense, such as the recent development of emergency housing units by the IKEA Foundation and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  In other cases, a solution that sounds great at first turns out to be ineffective, irrelevant, or misguided. The point is to be open to possibilities and plan effectively. If you’re interested in nonprofit collaborations, the Foundation Center has a resource page dedicated to the topic: here.

3. Social Media…Don’t Be Afraid!

Don’t worry. If you feel like the social media storm has passed you by or you’re overwhelmed by it, it’s okay. I’m in my twenties and I sometimes can’t keep up. However, looking towards the future I think it would be better for organizations to not ignore social media, but to take steps (even if they’re babysteps) to utilize it. It can help with marketing, community outreach, networking, donor retention and many other things. And don’t feel like you have to do it all. Instagram might be great for one organization, but it might not work well for yours.

4. Events

After having pulled off an event, the last thing you might want to think about is the next one. But putting in a little effort at a current event can make the next one even more successful. Lisa Thompson highlights 4 ways to do this: Save Time by Planning Your Next Event Now.

5. Office Culture

I visited an office this week that made me want to run out of there the moment I stepped in. Luckily, I was in and out quickly, but I couldn’t help but feel for the staff trapped down there day after day. I am a firm believer that work environment and culture has a direct impact on employee health and productivity. For further reading on the topic see Why Designing Your Nonprofit Culture is Do or Die

6. Leadership

An organization’s leaders are the ones that are steering it towards the future. Without the right leaders, an organization can’t move forward or will sail off in the wrong direction. That’s why assessments of executive directors and board members are so important. It helps if they know what they are doing right and what they can improve on in the eyes of those they lead and serve. If you are a leader, be open to suggestions and remember the importance of communication. Co-founder of Twitter, Biz Stone, who has served as both a CEO and board member said, “I’m constantly communicating, because I’ve learned that it’s the most important job a CEO has.” Invest in the right leaders to guide your organization into the future. Further reading: Good Governance: Board Assessment

7. Be Bulletproof…Be Accountable

Search any nonprofit news site and there is bound to be something written about an instance of nonprofit fraud or board members behaving poorly. When I read about these cases, I’m reminded about what I learned at Board Bootcamp about the importance of strict accountability and asking questions if you are a board member. It’s also important to keep up with legal changes that can effect your nonprofit and to make sure you are in compliance with current rules and regulations. Recently, the Maine Lobster Festival became aware that it should have been collecting sales taxes and hadn’t been. It took 67 years for the festival to catch the blunder, but they contacted the authorities soon after finding out. Being aware and being accountable helps to maintain the integrity of the organization and will help protect it from fraud or legal issues in the future. The more accountable you are now, the less fear you should have about a major issue creeping up later.

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