How Nonprofits Make Great Lemonade Out of Lemons

by | Jun 17, 2020

It is a big day when the home you’ve had on the market for eleven months finally sells. In fact, for days leading up to the closing and the hours and minutes before, I was afraid to let myself get excited in case something, anything unexpected, went wrong.

It did sell, but not until we spent many hours and dollars that we didn’t intend trying to make it better. We worked hard to make it attractive to the prospective buyer. After many good memories and a few significant losses in that home, it was time for us to move on and invite the next family to make it their own. 

Eleven months of waiting is tough. But wait was all we could do. Many nonprofit organizations find themselves waiting for things to open, waiting to deliver services as they did before, and waiting to hear from donors. 

It is in this waiting period that nonprofit organizations are making changes. They are changing out of desperation to serve, and that is changing the future for us as donors. 

Many nonprofit organizations have pivoted at incredible speed to serve their clients, and in some cases, to respond to increased need around the pandemic. 

From a Bowl Full of Lemons

On several occasions over the years, I have asked a donor if they could do one thing to change the world what would that be? The answers are always big: end poverty and homelessness, ensure a good education for every child, eradicate some disease.  Changing the world demands Big Hairy Audacious Goals. 

Right now, nonprofits are setting BHAGs. They intend to survive and to serve, and they are doing what it takes. 

Pollyanna, a famous book printed in 1913, gave us a short-hand code to refer to being overly optimistic about everything – Pollyannaish – and the recipe for making lemonade out of lemons. 

To Lemonade

Nonprofit organizations, community leaders, and donors are using this moment to learn how to deliver services in new and creative ways. Some could be described as Pollyannaish, every day making lemonade from lemons. 

Some nonprofits are led by visionaries; they give us why not questions. Practical, get it done types leap over obstacles and invite us along for the journey. 

As pressures from the pandemic shift from just safety and survival to how to continue our lives and stay healthy, we face the long-term effects of COVID-19, and anxiety and fear the virus will return. 

Nonprofit organizations know tomorrow will not only bring more of the same but also more of what they hadn’t expected. It won’t just suddenly all be over like waking from a nightmare. 

I know many Executive Directors who are visioning our futures. And, just as many who are leaping over obstacles. They are not doing it alone. They are doing it with the support and encouragement of board members and volunteers. 

Find a Board Member or Volunteer

Who do you know that works or volunteers at a nonprofit organization? What public officials do you know who are now moving from the unrelenting storm to mere rainy days as they continue searching for solutions and right actions?

Find them and thank them for continuing to work for the benefit of the entire community. Listen to their ideas and encourage the trial and error changes they make every day to continue the work of ensuring it is a good place to live. 

Be the kind of donor willing to step into the fray with them as they experiment on different ways to serve. That can be hard as we’re so often wired to expect not just results, but good results. We’re wired to expect success. 

These are not times for simple solutions and the collection of easy statistics we often call success.  These are times to learn forward and create unexpected futures. Lemonade from Lemons.

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