Despite the flood of giving for relief efforts following the Haiti earthquake, reports on the giving sector underscore the need for nonprofits to get their shops in order and focus on the fundamentals of doing business.

Giving continues to decline.

Echoing an ongoing downward trend in the charitable marketplace, a new study last week by the Council for Aid to Education reported a decline of 11.9 percent in charitable contributions to colleges and universities in the U.S.

And Dunham+Company, a consultant to Christian ministries, found in a recent survey that, despite a decline in the share of households that are spending less on monthly bills and entertainment, 37 percent of households expect to continue reducing their charitable donations.

And nearly one in four households have eliminated donations altogether, statistically the same as last year.

Experts on nonprofits and fundraising continue to urge organizations to take stock of their operations and programs, get their boards more involved in fundraising and strategic planning, and give personalized attention to givers and get them involved in their organizations.

This focus on basics requires leadership at the staff and board levels.

And leadership requires thinking big, asking questions and listening, telling stories that are authentic and compelling, and investing strategically.

A new study, Creative Disruption: Sabbaticals for Capacity Building and Leadership Development in the Nonprofit Sector, finds that sabbaticals can be “a relatively inexpensive but highly productive-building tool that yields measurable results.”

The recession is a time to take a hard look at business as usual, fix or eliminate what is not working, and build on what is working.

Now more than ever, nonprofits must be willing to invest in working smarter.


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