What would make everything better in your nonprofit?


What would make everything better in your nonprofit?

For a large percentage of your colleagues, money, or lack thereof, is cited as the most critical issue facing their organization.

Do you think plenty of money would make everything better for your nonprofit?

Makes sense to some extent. Money = more staff, increased salaries, and updated technology. With that, you’d have fully funded programs and more social impact.

cartoon on bridgeI will step out and challenge that assumption.

If your organization suddenly acquired a large sum of money that was more than enough to fund the following year’s budget, and then some, would that make everything better?

Are there internal struggles that could get in the way of putting this financial windfall to good use?

A few common examples of challenges that could get in the way of organizational health: An executive director refuses to get involved with fundraising, a board that doesn’t understand their role, an over-reliance on grants, and then, adding insult to injury, a fundraising plan that’s in the ED’s head. 

Will money solve these problems?

Deep down we all know the answer. Money doesn’t buy love or a healthy, robust organization. As a matter of fact, if there are systemic problems – which is often the case – money could exacerbate the problem.

So then what? This post is about looking beyond money and toward organizational health. And becoming a part of the solution, today. 

The ABC’s of becoming part of the solution, today!

a.  Acknowledge your story, and reframe it.

What’s your story about your job or role? “I’m not appreciated, we don’t have enough staff (or board members) and I can’t do it all. I’m underpaid and pissed. We won’t make our fundraising goals and the board will think it’s my fault. But it’s really xxx.”

What I know for sure – the stories we tell ourselves can block our intelligence, energy level, and effectiveness. How can you reframe it?

“There’s so much potential here and I know I have a lot to contribute. I love the people, I love the mission. All of this board infighting is tripping me up. There must be another way and I’m going to figure it out.”

Phew. Much better.

b.  Behave differently, starting now.

What behaviors do you have that may be a part of the problem? Do you gossip about board members or staff? Are you on Facebook for an hour, then complain that there’s not enough time to get things done?

What one behavior can you adopt or banish today that will make you breathe easier, and maybe even smile? When you change this behavior, only you will know you’re headed in the right direction.

Until it takes hold.

It’s a systems theory thing. I like the image of a mobile. If one small piece is taken away (like an old behavior), the whole thing changes.


What do new behaviors look like for you?

When you’re at the end of your rope, stop and catch your breath. Take a 15-minute walk rather than hanging out on Facebook. When you return, I guarantee you’ll have new energy and a few new ideas for how to handle the situation.

You can bet your colleagues will notice. And you’re modeling healthy behavior. Check out this article about walking meetings

Or, when a colleague is struggling with something (especially if you’re not crazy about this person), stop to help.

If you adopt one new behavior and keep it up, how could that impact your performance? Get curious and find out.

How might it change the way your board chair, executive director, or colleague responds to you? Or dare I say donor.

c.  Commit to changing course

What does it look like to become a part of the solution for a larger problem? That requires a commitment to noticing when something works, then iterate.

For example, are there conflict issues among staff or board members? That’s not a quick fix, but you can take a step. There are plenty of webinars, books, and articles out there on conflict- and they’re interesting.

shutterstock_320364119Take the first step. Become a part of the solution.

Are there aspects of your leadership style, that if enhanced, could help you become part of the solution? Set out to find a program, class, or mentor to guide you.

What could you do to improve your performance and move the needle? Find someone that has succeeded in your area of expertise, and model them.

No more using time or money as an excuse. The ABC’s won’t make everything better, but they’re enough to set sail.

Can you identify the story that blocks your growth?


Tricia Dell is a fundraising coach, facilitator, and strategist for nonprofit organizations. Learn more at triciadell.com and follow her on twitter @triciadell.

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  • Harriet Pecot

    Reply Reply May 16, 2016

    Love today’s blog! While the concept of “do what you love and the money will follow” can feel oversimplified, I do think when we are ready and able to handle money, it is more likely to be available. Money can cause as many problems (or more) as it can solve if you don’t know how to handle it. I also like the point about being the change you want. We come from a culture of blaming which doesn’t serve anyone. I strive to be the person I want to be and not let the behavior of others shape my actions – which isn’t always easy. The bottom line is we are all human and you never know what is the driving force behind the actions of others. Having compassion for yourself and others, staying in your own lane and focusing on the positive can be trans-formative forces in one’s life. Thanks for the reminders!

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    • Admin

      Reply Reply May 16, 2016

      I love that Harriet and adding compassion to the mix is so important – and useful. Love the wisdom of those reading this blog. Thank you!

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