Having been the executive director of a small, grassroots arts nonprofit, helping NFF clients and funders address the full costs of doing good has not been an intellectual exercise. I’ve lived it. I know what it means to not take a paycheck, and to have to explain to an artist that we can’t buy art supplies until the next checks come in.
These painful and avoidable conversations happen throughout the nonprofit sector and I love helping organizations work through these issues. In one case, we were working with a child abuse prevention group at the moment they secured a $5 million gift. That was a transformational amount of money. But it quickly became apparent that their plan was to scale up the work without scaling up the money-making side: In a couple of years, the organization would burn through the money and wouldn’t be able to sustain that new size. We were able to help the executive director and board understand that they shouldn’t simply think about expanding, but also figure out how to operate in a sustainable way five years down the line.
The work that has caused me to stretch the most is addressing racial equity; lifting up other models of leadership; reimagining how capacity building is done and how capital is deployed within the sector. It’s exceptionally challenging and has called on us at NFF to do better in those spaces as well.