Continue to Support a Nonprofit in Hard Times

nonprofit hard times

Tyler Morning Telegraph, Give Well Column By Dawn Franks June 10, 2018

The recent three-day weekend afforded extra time for my gardening habit. I’ve created what I call the green monster in my yard. It takes a lot of my free time but is the source of both pleasure and pain.

I experienced some of the pain while trimming bushes. Close by is a pretty, low-growing plant called Walker’s low catmint. I planted it in anticipation of the pleasure our cats experience rolling around in it. I have to admit, though, I’ve only witnessed any interest one time. While they’ve been slow to warm up to it, the bees have not. And on this day, it was covered in hundreds of them busy pollinating. Although I did see them, I was oblivious to any danger.

We have many plants that attract pollinators — hummingbirds and bees alike. I plant them on purpose and often work closely around them. We’re like old friends at the grocery store, occasionally bumping into each other. So, I was surprised to have a bee land on a finger with the sting of vengeance.

Quickly I covered it with a paste of baking soda, and it soon felt better. Minutes later I went right back to work on my long list of chores, determined not to let this momentary inconvenience slow me down. My finger reacted with only slight swelling.

Much to my surprise the next morning, however, I awoke to see the swelling spreading down into my hand. By noon it had moved into my wrist and become very uncomfortable to bend my hand. But it wasn’t painful. I didn’t experience an allergic reaction, so I kept on with my daily activities. In my first meeting of the day, I told a colleague I hoped if I kept moving it the swelling would subside more quickly. She was doubtful.

Later in another meeting about the health of a nonprofit and their board of directors, I heard myself say it is harder to evaluate the health of nonprofit boards because they operate in the background, behind the scenes of the services the organization delivers. When things go wrong, like my hand, the swelling and allergic reaction starts slowly and is then suddenly apparent to everyone.

Organizations sometimes experience challenges and problems. They usually start slowly. As donors, we are surprised when things go wrong at an organization we donate to regularly. We can’t see the critical role played by the board of directors.

So, just like I went to bed with a slightly swollen finger and woke the next morning surprised to see a swelling hand and wrist, you can be just as surprised that your favorite nonprofit is experiencing problems that trace all the way back to the board of directors.

Even when we see hints of a problem, whether we donate, work or volunteer with the organization, we stay committed, hoping it will get better quickly, so services continue.

If you serve on a board of directors and meetings are tense, issues seldom discussed or problems glazed over, then it is entirely your responsibility to be forthright and a leader in the boardroom. Parking lot discussions with a committee of a few do not help an entire board own its role in the health of the nonprofit.

As a donor, your role is different, but essential, when you see hints of a problem. If it is early and the swelling not too pronounced, you can continue to support them but do it at a lower level for a time.

If the problems continue to grow, I encourage you to step back but listen, watch and ask questions. The truth is that most nonprofits go through challenges that can swamp the board for a time, but they seldom close their doors.

That’s the good news for us as donors. When their work is essential to our community, important to us individually, then as they work their way out of the swamp we can be ready to step back in or increase our donations.

The need for their services seldom fades. Being prepared to give again touches the true meaning of philanthropy, a love for mankind.

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