Opinion and Commentary from the Charitable Sector

Turning the page

Summer is ripening this year like a golden peach,  every bite of leisure sweet to savor, a welcome respite from things that otherwise dominate our worker-bee attention spans the rest of the year.  Family and friends load up their cars, buy their plane tickets, put on their hiking boots, jump on their bikes and climb aboard all manner of conveyances to return to old haunts or to explore those completely new to their experience and palate as travelers. 

Meanwhile, the world  rocks heedlessly on, the headlines framing with their heavy, black ink, the troubles that await our return and attention, bad news looming as if dark sentinels over the family picnic by the sea.  We plan our escapes, stopping the newspapers, suppressing our compulsion for digital transfusions, making room for thought, conversation, and doing, long shelved like holiday ornaments.  Our lagging spirits demand refueling.      

Post-vacation, we are reminded of our summer pursuits through evidence left behind of their  passing—the photographs, the magnet on the fridge, the book on the shelf, the postcards sent, the receipts in our wallets, bills in the mail, and our pets exhausted and happy we are home at last.  It takes time to move back into our routines and reclaim the normalcy that settles over our shoulders like a colorless garment.  Still, just as Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “there’s no place like home.”    

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Wanted: Angel Investors


Nonprofits make a budget plan annually.  Once the gavel falls, and the board approves the numbers, it becomes the blueprint for guiding forward the achievement of the organization’s aspirations.  Most will find it a challenge to project accurately the multiple sources of revenue from which to fund operations for the future year.  Revenue streams are dependent on the generosity and judgment of individual donors.  The psychology of the guesstimate is like swimming in a current you hope will not carry you out to sea.  The uncertainties incentivize nonprofits to stretch beyond traditional development strategies and tactics—grantwriting, direct appeals, fees for services and fundraising events—to support their missions.  Many of their business models to stimulate revenue production mimic the language and structures more commonly associated with for-profit enterprises.

It is every nonprofit’s wish list to have more predictable and stable sources of revenue, but the hope of achieving one’s mission is, by comparison, the deeper well.  The Harvard Business Review noted in a recent article that the biggest obstacle to scaling up in the social sector is the absence of effective funding models; and an audacious vision to achieve systemic change— whether that be ending homelessness, wiping out food insecurity, or creating more affordable housing—requires sustainable sources of revenue.  The present economy fuels need, opportunity, and fertile ground for spawning nonprofit initiatives that address the two sides of this development/mission dilemma.  Charities with an entrepreneurial spirit increase the odds they will be successful in sustaining their mission and achieve social and economic change on a scale sufficient to genuinely transform people’s lives.  


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