To Keep Fatigue at Bay, Set Your Nonprofit’s Sights on MissionBy Erin Kane |
Compassion fatigue washes over nonprofits and their donors similar to ordinary bouts of weariness. Characterized by waning interest, feeble commitment and lackluster response, fatigue can hit your organization hard.
In a densely competitive place like Philadelphia — home to 13,000 active nonprofits — employing laser-like focus on the needs of whom you serve and your key stakeholders can remedy the most persistent cases of fatigue. It’s also a good sign you’re on the right track.
While this may seem simplistic, in tight economic times, some nonprofits do the bare minimum to stay afloat; others lose direction or fail to evaluate their impact. “In reality, there are a lot of organizations disconnected from actual work,” said David Fair, Principal of David Fair Partners LLC and Senior Consultant for Generocity.
Nonprofits that maintain high-quality services have developed “strong internal mechanisms” for performance and evaluation, said Fair, an indicator that clients are paramount and a good first step toward improving efficiency.
Nowadays, funders want to know how their dollars are being spent, requiring nonprofits to adopt streamlined business practices.
“From an economic stance, we’ve been forced to become more traditional, because funders want to know that the dollars we do receive go primarily to the care of the children and families we serve,” said Tracey Lavallias, President and CEO of Northern Children’s Services.
In industry speak, demonstrating a return on investment, known as “ROI,” is an effective framework for nonprofits, supporting the development of measurement tools to gauge the impact of their work.
While the vast majority of nonprofits “struggle with how to quantify their impact,” said David Fair, an important rule of thumb is to develop criteria and outcomes focused on clients and consumers, rather than donors. “We consider how each investment will ultimately impact the lives of kids,” said Lavallias, “and we make decisions through that lens.”
Embracing ROI should also be an important component of your stakeholder communications and is key to fundraising. When nonprofits seek donations, they are essentially asking for money in exchange for a promise.
Through their contributions, said Laura Otten, Executive Director of The Nonprofit Center at La Salle University, “donors demonstrate a level of faith in the nonprofit, which has an obligation to demonstrate how well they are fulfilling that promise.”
Being upfront about your successes and failures is critical. So is your nonprofit’s obligation to understand its donors. “Good donor relations takes attention and energy,” explained Otten. “You must be willing to customize your donor approach and take the time to truly listen to what your donors want.”
While that may seem easy, deciphering how and when donors want to hear from you is increasingly complex in a digital world. “Donors get tired of being bombarded,” said Otten. To stave off donor fatigue, invest resources to understand their preferences.
Of course, not all nonprofits have the capacity to bring on designated development people. But transforming every member of your nonprofit into a full-fledged ambassador is a relatively easy and cheap solution. It’s a good idea to touch base with your donors every three to six months, and with adequate training, anyone can have one-to-one touches with your organization’s supporters.
Regardless of size, nonprofits need 100 percent of their members onboard to actively practice and fulfill the mission. After all, genuine enthusiasm is a surefire cure for fatigue. “If you can communicate that message effectively,” said Tracey Lavallias, “you can reach people in any environment.”blog comments powered by Disqus