Large Nonprofit Deliberately Chooses The Road Less Traveled

August 28, 2013

“Whenever I hear nonprofit executives say they cannot build capacity or make investments necessary for long-term sustainability because they ‘just don’t have the money,’ I know they are not really telling the truth, even though they think they are.”

 

Bill Shore, founder and chief executive of 
Share Our Strength, opened a recent article in the 
Chronicle of Philanthropy with this statement, and his great argument warrants a discussion with our readers.

 

Shore proceeds to explain that what nonprofits are really saying is they do have the money but they don’t have the imagination or confidence when it comes to investing in long-term solutions. Shore adds that when nonprofits are asked to make long-term investments, it requires what they do worst: wait for investments to pay off or invest in capacity, new talent or technology, to name a few.

 

I would add to Shore’s point that the lack of confidence is, in large part, due to external pressures highlighted in my recent post featuring 
Dan Pallotta’s exploration of a separate and discriminatory
rule book that asks nonprofits to succeed while starving on unsustainable low overheads. It’s difficult to have confidence in the long-term when our public doesn’t have the patience for higher overhead or long time horizons.

 

If turning away families in your health clinic so you can make investments in development, marketing and technology seems unimaginable, then you can guess how difficult it was for Shore and his staff to endure the reduction of their short-term grantmaking to clients with 
Share Our Strength. However, this reduction allowed them to make similar investments, which would eventually triple their efforts toward ending childhood hunger. Their investments involved experienced financial management, communication and brand development as well as political and policy guidance. The result was a leap from revenues totaling $26 million in 2010 to $49 million in 2013.

 

Similarly, when clients come to us, they’re often in the position of not having had the benefit of external financial input. 
Accurate reporting, strategic financial planning and forecasting can help nonprofits consider longer-term solutions for greater impact down the road. Bill Shore recognizes that not all nonprofits have sufficient cash reserves to invest in capacity building or capitalize on growth yet everyone still has the option of exercising long-term thinking in lieu of pursuing short-term gains.

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