Opportunities In A Downturn Economy For Not For Profit Organizations by Carl Sylvestre

The daily economic headlines continue to paralyze our dreams. However, I take the point of view that even in a downturn economy there are opportunities for most organizations if we stay focus on mission and start planning for better times today.

The economic downturn is forcing most organizations to review their current activities closely and many are still making difficult cuts in the services that they are providing. It is important that these cuts are made strategically. Be very careful about making them across the board to reach a magic number on the bottom line, the wrong cuts can have long term impacts and will make a recovery much more difficult.

Rank in order of importance to the mission the various activities that your organization is undertaking and how much of your resources are being allocated to each of these categories? In doing this exercise many organizations are finding that they are spending more resources on items that are not top ranked in the organization’s ability to deliver on its mission. Use this as a launching pad for an open discussion on what the organization stands for.

This is time to look at the impact that the external environment is having on your organization and the public that you are serving. Are there organizations that are replicating your resources and how does that impact the sustainability of your services? >

Another question to ask is how diversified are your funding/income sources? Different sectors of the economy will recover at different paces. Are you well protected for this wave? These issues have always been with us, but we are now much more acutely aware of it.

As difficult as it may be, it is very important that you spend time as a team to think about the future of the organization and put in writing its potential. Where do you see yourself in a year, 2 years and 5 years? Start writing some basic requirements of how to get there. Be realistic, but also dream a little. The dreams are what are going to sustain you and unlock the doors to creative solutions. Innovation comes from having a plan to do the impossible. Seize on that dream now. As Rahm Emmanuel said when he was appointed White House Chief of Staff, “A crisis is too good an opportunity to waste.”