Standing in the alley behind our office building, I struggled to breathe evenly. Blinking back tears, I tried to figure out the words I would use to deliver the news. For the first time in our history, we faced a cutback of services and a staff layoff.
I had been through plenty of ups and downs over more than ten years at my nonprofit. Only one other time had come close to that same moment during our second year of operation. We again lost a major grant, but a donor stepped in and wrote a check for the entire amount. Had that not happened the impact would have been far less dramatic than the current situation as services were minute by comparison and we were mostly volunteer staffed.
This time it had been a very long summer of stretching donations, yet never quite paying all the bills. We had just been able to make payroll and hoped to hang on until a traditional late-summer fundraiser. Then a letter arrived announcing a major funding source would not renew a grant.
There was nothing fun about that summer. We weren’t swimming; we were drowning. Like many nonprofit organizations summer was in the middle – the middle of our budget year.
In the life of most things, the middle passes without notice. If I’m reading a good book, I fly past the middle intent on finding out how the story ends. If I’m on a trip, the needed rest break is always a stop too far, and usually beyond the middle of the trip.
But when a nonprofit is in the middle of their budget year, an attentive board of directors and staff are acutely aware. The threat of cutting services, not paying the bills or payroll add to the stress of feeding, counseling, teaching – you fill in the blank.
For a great many nonprofit organizations, the mid-point is in June and July, traditionally a slow period for donations.
Nonprofit budgets are frequently on a calendar year. The first few months of the year they live off our generosity, so often triggered by the giving season at year end. It is so common that nonprofit organizations build it into their fundraising and cash flow plans.
I have long been a proponent of spreading giving throughout the year. The simple act of writing donation checks two to three times per year to your favorite organizations can be significant.
This time of year, nonprofit board members look ahead to the last half of the year to project income, cost of operating and demand for services.
A simple change in the timing of your giving can make all the difference in the world.
Four Reasons to Give Mid-Year
- Smooths out financial challenges and keeps programs healthy all year long
- Can boost funding for programs offered during the summer
- Organizations can stay focused on delivering services without interruption
- Boards of Directors avoid operating in panic mode, looking for quick ways to meet budget shortfalls
Each point is important, but the last one warrants more comment.
Help Nonprofits Stay Healthy All Year-Long
When your favorite nonprofit sees a budget shortfall on the horizon, they may make decisions from a panic mode. Nonprofit organizations are like human beings; they can make poor choices while in a financial crisis.
There are times when there is no choice, like when I stood behind the building looking for the words to announce the services and staff cutback due to the loss of a significant grant. But it is more likely that the financial crisis has crept up on them like the weeds that slowly creep across your lawn. One day you look up and ask, where did all the grass go as if it disappeared overnight.
Mid-year donors can play an outsized role in the financial stability of an organization by helping to smooth the income over the year and contributing at a time when donations are traditionally at a low point.
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Your decision to give some or all of what you would donate to that organization mid-year will have more of an impact than the loss of some of your gift at year-end. Don’t worry; many donors will continue to give during the traditional giving season.
Why am I sending this message in early May? Because summer-time is upon us and the nonprofits you care about know it. They are already planning for the slow-down of donations. They are already figuring out how to stretch available dollars into fall.
If every donor chose only one organization to give to at mid-year, the entire nonprofit community would breathe a sigh of relief. And most importantly, those who come for help and assistance of all kinds would be served when it mattered.
Make your giving count now.
How do you like to support your favorite nonprofit organizations? Share your story so we can learn from each other.
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