Article by Mel Ulle

As a consultant to nonprofits, foundations, initiatives and philanthropic agencies, I often find myself playing the role of motivational speaker. I can get so preachy that I even kind of inspire myself. But sometimes… I find myself in serious need of inspiration.

I, like so many others, have spent the last 8 days pretty much shell-shocked. I have lost clients, watched friends and colleagues get terribly ill, I became the vice-principal of a really terrible home-school. (I would not recommend this particular home-school. It completely sucks and the management is shit). And on top of all of that, I’ve had to make some really hard business decisions.

I’m trying to keep my business afloat just as many nonprofits are struggling to do the same. And we’re all asking the same questions right now:

Is it okay to promote ourselves?

Is it okay to reach out to prospects and existing clients/donors?

Are we still relevant?

Over the past few days, I have had the pleasure of speaking with a number of large and small funders and can definitely say that the answer to this question is an overwhelming yes. We need to do so with humility and with an intentional approach.

We’re still doing great work, it’s just harder now. What I am doing for my firm and advising our clients to do right now is the following:

  • Reach out. Don’t pull away. Ask your donors/clients how you can be most helpful at this time. Send emails, notes and make phone calls.
  • Be honest. It’s okay to admit that you’re scared. Your donors/clients are scared too. Be authentic. We will all be remembered for how we showed up during this difficult time.
  • Stay in the game. Every nonprofit will still have a role to play in 6 months. That role may have adapted, but the problems that our organizations exist to ease and resolve will remain problems. Likely, these problems will be greatly exacerbated by a recession. Those groups that hide and “wait it out” will be the organizations that are no longer standing when this is all said and done. STAY IN THE GAME.

None of us got into the business of nonprofits, social justice, public service because it was easy. The course has shifted, but you’re still on the boat. Don’t jump ship.

We still matter. (Dang, I am a sucker for that preaching). We’re going to make it. And we’re probably going to be better versions of ourselves.

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