Addressing Challenges in Tough Times

Robin Noah

Tough times force hard choices. Although most of you are accustomed to making much of little, current times present greater challenges – the little becomes a lot.

Not surprisingly, there are no easy, or even particularly novel, answers to the issues confronting the continuation of an organization. It is a time to act… and there are several steps that require action.

Plan and act quickly: The challenge is to be both thoughtful about those decisions you will need to make and to be prepared to implement them at the appropriate time.

Sometimes you have to choose. Now is the time to allocate your discretionary dollars and best staff to the activities that have the greatest impact on those you serve and the organizational infrastructure required to support them. It is also the time to review your programs to determine if you need to cut back or discontinue the less critical activities — and to ask yourself, “If not now, when?”

Stay very close to your key funders
: The individual donors and organizations that know you best are the ones that are most likely to help you navigate this downturn. Remember that you don’t have to wait for your key funders to call you. You can – and should – use this as an opportunity to pick up the phone and call them to let them know what you’re seeing and how you plan to respond.

Raise the efficiency level: How efficient your organization runs has a lot to do with making it beyond the current situation. Efficiency requires planning, focus, commitment, and stamina. The need to do some belt-tightening can facilitate hard-to-contemplate changes that could make your operations more efficient and your impact greater.

Make it a collective effort: Now more than ever the organization’s leadership, along with the board members need to maintain an open conversation regarding the organization’s financial health and to collectively plan for the success of the organization. In times of crisis, everyone needs to step up to the plate.

Steps taken to manage through tough times tend to endure. Making the wrong choices weakens everything within the organization. The long-term consequences can be either good, not so good or a bottom drop out.

For greater success: Get a commitment from all to reinforce the organization’s core values and mission focus. This is the foundation that will ensure the continuance of the organization.