With a little help from my friends

It is a common occurrence in my life for a non-profit organization to call and want The Healthy Non-Profit (aka me) to fix their problems. Of course, these problems run the spectrum:

  • Revenue issues (e.g. our revenue model isn’t working, our fundraising campaign is in decline, etc)
  • Board engagement issues
  • Staff issues
  • Org culture issues
  • Systems issues (e.g. donor database, etc)
  • Facilities issues (e.g. expansion of space)

Sometimes, I am happy to jump in with both feet and get to work. However, before starting to frame/contract the engagement (and depending on the issue), I oftentimes will ask:

“What have you done so far to address the issue?”

What I am looking for is an answer that aligns with Joe Cocker’s classic rock-n-roll song “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
In other words, has your organization reached out to others in your community to ask for help/advice? Friends such as:

  • United Way
  • Community Foundation
  • Donors
  • Other non-profit executive directors
  • Board members
  • Former board members

Supporters of your organization can and should be seen as much more than just ATMs. In addition to contributors, it is wise to ask supporters during challenging times for:

  • Time
  • Advice
  • Influence (aka door openers)

Your organization is part of a larger ecosystem full of talented individuals and other organizations. Accessing those resources is a healthy first step before doing anything else.
Think of it in terms of your personal life. How many times have you personally ended up in a difficult place and reached out to family and friends for advice or help? I can think of a number of examples in my life.
Please don’t misunderstand me.
I recognize that during difficult times, it feels appropriate to pull-up the draw bridge of our organizational castle and not let people who support us (either with time or money) see our struggles. However, the reality is that people close to us typically can see things for what they are even if we are trying to shield them from those issues.
While “full disclosure” and letting the entire world see the “sausage making process” might not be in your best interest all of the time, you might not have to go that far. After all, you are in control of what you share and how much you share. Right?
Have you ever pulled together a task force of supporters to brainstorm solutions to challenges your organization was facing? If so, please use the comment box below to share you experience. How did you frame the issue(s)? What was the result? What would you have done differently in hindsight? We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

One comment

  1. While Joe Cocker was brilliant, With a Little Help From My Friends is a Beatles song with Ringo singing lead. The Beatles were from England and had an impact at the time on popular music. Nothing to do with resource development I know. Keep on keeping on Erik!

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