The great recession has dealt a double blow to the nonprofit sector. Funding has become much more competitive at the same time that the demand for services has surged. Non-profit leaders, both Board members and executive staff, are challenged to cut costs without cutting corners, often feeling trapped by what feels like fewer and fewer good options.
The staff feel trapped, too. Money gets tighter and stress goes up. For many staff who work because of their dedication to the mission and the clients, this has meant minimal, if any, pay increases and/or having hours cut. Staff and clients are forced to use and reuse supplies and outdated equipment and technology; and important services, such as transportation and meals are too often eliminated. Outcome measures drive success, but many staff lack the training needed to track the data in effective ways. Morale suffers and staff turnover is high.
Keeping a positive, CAN DO culture with so much stress on the organization is difficult – but far from impossible. By combining and communicating the Three Questions with the CAN DO Core Beliefs, staff at all levels feel included and more empowered. The Three Questions create an organic framework to keep the communication going across departments to help with planning on an ongoing basis; course corrections are less difficult because there is a Plan B already defined. What some see as problems, with some brainstorming and hard work, can become opportunities. It’s not easy – but neither is feeling stuck!
In The Can Do Chronicles, I outline my 10 Core Beliefs of CAN DO. The 7th Belief is the one that I believe helps teams function during stress: CAN DO works to stay positive, proactive and responsible in all areas of the organization. This means:
2) no blaming, whining or name calling; and,
3) ask the hard questions when looking at what is wrong, what needs to be change, and then looking hardest for what is right.
I have learned some of these lessons from remarkable CAN DO leaders that have led nonprofits to success during the hardest imaginable times. MANY of these lessons I have definitely learned “The Hard Way!” Some of them multiple times!
One of my goals for the CAN DO Blog is to help you and others avoid having to learn lessons “The Hard Way” too.
Are these ideas helpful? Leave a comment and let me know!