Guest post by Chuck Nutt
Do you feel like someone hit the pause button? “Pause buttons” happen in life. Usually they are happy or sad events when “normalcy” takes a break, and everything revolves around a celebration—or a tragedy. But this is different—because COVID-19 has hit the whole world’s “pause button.” And in our world, the world of nonprofit leadership and fundraising, what do we do in this inexplicable “pause”?
I was speaking with a friend the other day about this predicament we are all in and he said, “I’m going to turn my anxiety into action!” Now there’s an idea. Of course, it begs the question—what action can we take? I’m glad you asked.
There are so many unknowns. Doors are shut—when will they open again? Some nonprofits are facing unprecedented needs—with diminished giving and reduced staff in the economic collapse. Others just can’t do their mission—with current social distancing constraints. So, what does the future of your nonprofit—and your career as a nonprofit professional look like? Well, we don’t exactly know.
But there are some things we do know. First, the world will look—and be—different after COVID-19. Secondly, someone, hopefully in the not too distant future, will hit the “play” button again. Life will resume. Many are telling us, “It won’t be the same.” I’m sure that is true. The fragility of life will take on new meaning. Perspectives will have been altered. People will be more concerned about what gives their life meaning and purpose. What does this mean for your nonprofit? It means many of your supporters, donors, and volunteers are going to have a renewed affection for your organization and mission. Others will be motivated to search out opportunities to serve and infuse meaning and value into their days. People inside and outside your organization will be moved to action and involvement.
So. What can you do? What action can you take in the current “anxiety”? You can get your story straight. You can complete a task which is always important, but never seems urgent. You can pull your team together, gather the materials you need, get your consultant involved, and write your case for support.
I know the term “case for support” is not an exciting one. To me, it seems rather antiseptic—but neither is the process or it’s result. Traditionally, the case for support has been a capital campaign tool. The “case” is what is “tested” in a feasibility or campaign readiness study—is their buy-in from potential donors and prospects for the value and viability of the proposed project?
In addition, though, to the campaign case for support, I would argue that every nonprofit needs an organizational case for support. “People have much more to contribute when they see the path, direction, and vision into the future---when they know what you are trying to accomplish as a business and as a company” (Riding the Blue Train, by Bart Sayle and Surinder Kumar, pp. 11-12). And this current anxiety—and pause—is a great time to write the story of your organization’s path, direction, and vision!
What does a great organizational case for support do? It documents who you are—what you do—as an organization. It describes where you want to go—what you want to be—for your clients and community. It details how you are going to get there, and it articulates why your organization is worthy of support.
Let me tell you one more thing. Once you complete your outstanding case for support, this is how you’re going to use it:
· As the primary source document for all your public relations materials
· As a cultivation tool with your major and planned giving prospects and donors
· As a board member recruitment and training manual
· As an awareness and education instrument with key influencers
My best advice is to ask a professional who has been down this road before to come alongside you as you make the journey to an outstanding case for support. It will be worth the time, effort, and money to do so.
Best wishes for a great case for support!
Stay safe and happy writing.
Charles “Chuck” Nutt currently serves as the Director of International Resource Development for The Salvation Army World Service Office in Alexandria, Virginia. Previous experience includes fundraising leadership roles at local and divisional levels for The Salvation Army, chief development officer at private educational institutions, serving as fundraising counsel and conducting campaign readiness studies for nonprofits from Alaska to Florida. Chuck is also an ordained minister, serving in pastoral and staff ministry for more than 30 years.