NFF Helps Social Sector Leaders Prepare for Change

December 9, 2016

NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2016 — Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) is sharing special resources to help assess nonprofit organizations’ financial health, risk tolerance, and overall adaptability amidst uncertainty about policy and funding under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Almost 900 senior executives from nonprofits and funders registered to attend three NFF special webinars on Financial Health & Social Good: Steering Nonprofits through Uncharted Waters. Links to webinar materials are available below. More than 700 webinar registrants from 41 states wrote in about their specific concerns, with funding by far the most mentioned.

“If federal funding is turned upside-down, how quickly can that happen?”

“People are concerned about funding cuts,” said NFF CEO Antony Bugg-Levine to the webinar audience. “Those of you who work in health and human services are specifically concerned about uncertainties as federal funding cuts could potentially move through state and local sources. People are concerned about what might change in the tax code and the implications that has for private giving. And many of us are concerned about the vulnerability of the people we serve.”

“We know that you can develop a set of capabilities and tools and practices within your organization to navigate uncertainty more effectively,” said Bugg-Levine. “We’ve been helping nonprofits and funders do this for more than 35 years. We know it’s hard to do. As a nonprofit and a funder, we are doing it ourselves. We also know that, while it’s hard, it’s powerful when it works.”

“Many of our primary funders are currently uncertain of their own future, much less worrying about their nonprofit partners. How do you push forward with all this uncertainty?”

The first webinars outlined concrete steps that nonprofit leaders and board members can take today to ensure clear decision-making, such as how to foster constructive discussion; gauge their organization’s financial health, adaptability, and risk tolerance; assess risks and opportunities; develop scenarios and corresponding action plans, and take short-term actions that don’t endanger long-term stability.

“We offer these steps as a way to wrap your head around the possibilities of what might be changing and give you a path for how to think about them,” said NFF Director Jina Paik. “Regardless of what’s happening in the external world or even in our internal worlds, leaders who have a mindset of adaptability will be in a much stronger position to pivot once we have more information.”

“Uncertainty can be paralyzing,” said NFF Director Renee Patey. “Help yourself by gathering as much intel, info, and insight as you can. Responding to change, even driving change, is a part of our creed and our constitution as nonprofits. Community needs evolve and we evolve with them.” Paraphrasing Hunter S. Thompson, she added: “We must make the choice at times to float with the tide or to swim toward a goal.”

“As a grantee and a grantor, both sides of this coin regarding funding uncertainty are important to me. Many of our coalition partners are looking at potentially damaging state and federal funding cuts. This will also impact our organization since much of our project work comes from these funds.”

The final webinar covered how funders can support adaptability in their grantees; the role of managing risk in grantee organizations and in funding, and the critical need for funders to recognize the funder-grantee power dynamic and nurture open dialogue.

“We’re offering you a roadmap to help prioritize how to approach your own assessment, dialogue, and response to your grantees at this time of uncertainty,” said Kristin Giantris, Managing Director. “Given the rate of change we are seeing in our society in the past 10 years, adaptability has become the new normal and it’s needed more than ever today.”

“We want to avoid the ‘doom loop,’ which is something we see all too frequently in our work,” said Sandi Clement McKinley, Vice President. “The doom loop is simple: Organizations faced with liquidity or cash crises look for any money they can find.”

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