You’ve heard it before. It’s February. It’s Texas. “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes.” I thought that phrase was strictly about Texas weather but discovered it’s common across the entire country. According to research, the phrase turns up in many places, including states where you might not expect it – like Hawaii or Florida.
Executive directors and boards of directors can relate. Nonprofit organizations experience organizational changes that resemble our current weather pattern. Warm for a few days, very cold for a few days, then hoping it warms up again.
We call it February; they call it lean times.
Nonprofits meet the budget and deliver services as expected on a daily basis. It feels like warm, sunny days. Then the bad weather days show up – donations slump, funders change priorities, more clients show up for services, staff moves on to other jobs, and volunteers drift off to another nonprofit.
Eventually, all nonprofit organizations experience lean times.
The question for donors is, are our favorite nonprofit organizations prepared for the lean times? When it’s super cold, we need protection from the weather. Like us, they need protection from the lean times, sometimes for more than a few days.
The question of whether the nonprofit is ready for lean months is important. But here is an equally important question: are we prepared to give again early in the year to help keep them financially healthy and continue services?
Our gloves and warm scarves were put away in drawers and boxes we can’t find, so we tough it out, knowing the warm, sunny day will be back very soon – sometimes in ten minutes. It’s harder for the nonprofit. The weather change – new donors, new grants, talented staff, and volunteers – could take months to return. Meanwhile, the demand for service seldom slows.
I spent many years as a nonprofit executive director, weathering ups and downs. The first few months of the year were always down, with far fewer donations. I understood why, but I also faced daily challenges to stretch the budget until donations began to flow again.
Our favorite nonprofits are battling those challenges right now. So, how can you make a difference right now?
A Few Ideas to Make a Difference Now
The first one starts with us, the donors. Pick one organization you are especially fond of or believe is critical in our community and donate this month.
Donor research tells us that most giving is local, and most are by individuals. We represented almost 70% of all giving in America in 2021 (Giving USA 2022: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2021).
If you make a difference for just one organization by contributing again in the first quarter of the year, and if I do the same, and our friends do the same, all sorts of nonprofit organizations will experience a better first quarter.
My second solution requires a little more coordination. Again, start with your favorite nonprofit organization. But this time, invite three or five or ten friends to pitch in $10. That’s two lattes or one fast-food lunch. Drop off the $30 or $50, or $100 and let the nonprofit organization know it comes from a group of donors. They will love every one of you.
You can increase your impact by picking one organization this month, another the next month, and the next. You can stop there because you, and maybe your friends, have made a significant difference at the beginning of the year.
Or you can keep it going all year, and the nonprofit organizations will love you every time the donation arrives. So, join them in the work by giving now.
How do you give to your favorite nonprofit early in the year? Share your favorite nonprofit and why it matters to give now.
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I’ll take on that challenge.