Is new funding a distraction? Four questions to ask

Nonprofit leaders – and so many others – are being offered new opportunities to collaborate; new funding; and new demands on their time, relationships and resources. It all might be for the good of the community, but can you rise to the occasion? Should you? Can you really do what others are asking you to do? When you are asked to “step up” in a new way, take a moment to ask a few questions.

First, does your organization have the skills and experience necessary for the proposed project to be successful? Will you have to recruit new staff, enter into relationships with contractors, or build community collaborations for the project to work? Will you be compensated for the time and expense related to this? Will you actually be able to recruit the talent and build the relationships within the timeframes required? Will you be able to sustain them? What will that cost? Only you and your board will know if you can do what you are doing now while taking on something new.

Second, the prospect of additional funding can feel like a lifeline, but if it adds more work to an overworked staff and underdeveloped infrastructure you might end up sinking instead. When you are asked to take on a new project, bring together your board, program staff, and finance people to figure out whether or not the proposed funding will cover all the expenses – including overhead – that you will incur related to the program. Then consider whether the agency, philanthropist, or foundation can provide resources and funding to maintain and sustain the work once the preliminary grant is over. Will you end up with additional funding today and a next-to-impossible fundraising goal tomorrow?

Third, do you fully understand the proposed body of work?  You may hear a funder, donor, or collaborator asking for one thing, but have you confirmed that you are hearing them correctly? Are the requirements in writing? Is the donor, funder or stakeholder open to modifying their ideas to work within your capacity and to take advantage of your knowledge and lived experience? Related to this – and the earlier points – will the funder provide the necessary funding for you to maintain and grow this project? Will they introduce other funders to the project and encourage them to support it? Will fundraising for this project become solely your responsibility, or will the funder work with your nonprofit to build a pool of donors and funders who can underwrite the work and help it grow?

Fourth, do you have buy-in and commitment from your board? Does the project align with your mission, vision and goals? Will launching it send mixed messages and confusion to those who believe in and support your work? Will it take resources away from other programs, activities, advocacy campaigns, or organizational planning work? 

You want to make sure a “great opportunity” doesn’t take your organization off course. Don’t say “yes” until you know what it will take for you to be successful.


Copyright 2021 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2021 Video and phone conferencing services are always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.

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