Operating in Difficult Times

Running a successful organization is a challenge even in the best of economic times, but these days it can be considerably daunting. However, difficult times can offer tremendous opportunities for leadership, if we can remain forward looking, unafraid and generous despite the fear and paralysis around us. Difficult times distill us to our essence and test our determination and commitment. Without money to throw at a problem we are forced to confront challenges with a different perspective and become creative with resource development, new partnerships and the use of existing resources.

We can also get practical. Now is the time for economies of scale, reviewing operation efficiencies, streamlining, cutting back to core-mission programs, communicating a renewed commitment to donors and volunteers, salary cuts or deferred compensation, and outsourcing some operations to part-time staff or consultants.

We can also revisit the use of volunteers. Perhaps offer families “volunteer vacations” with week-long intensive activities that bring together different generations for meaningful interactions and education on important issues. And, in the process, lay the foundation for future funders and advocates, especially among children and adolescents.

Ask foundation, corporate and government funders what strategies they may have for the future and see if you can align your strategies with theirs. You can convene a meeting of other grantees from a single funder to discuss collaborations.

You can also review your facility costs and renegotiate your lease, or, if you are in the midst of a capital campaign, renegotiate the purchase price and construction costs for the new building.

More than ever this is a time for faith, and time to remember that the economy is cyclical and that boom times will eventually return. In the meantime, we have lost nothing of true value – love, courage, joy, selflessness and community are always what really count, and in difficult times truly flourish.