You Zoom into the meeting and you know something is different. What’s with the guy in the suit? And those binders and that projector?
“Good morning, everyone,” states the Executive Director, a little quieter than usual. “As you know, this past year has been very challenging for everyone on the planet – and that includes us, good folks working to protect everyone on the planet. I know that most of you work on our Programs and Initiatives but it’s important – right now – for us to come together and have a difficult conversation.”
You gulp as you hear her say those words. I mean, you haven’t been oblivious to the impacts of the global pandemic to human health – and non-profit balance sheets. You’ve tried to keep your head down, focused on your research and the upcoming release of the report. You’ve put in the extra time, working from home, and made sure that you overdelivered in terms of time and energy invested. And yet, here’s the ED looking uneasy and about to talk about……..?
“I know most of you come from the research and program side of our organization. You all do incredible work and we’re absolutely thankful for your contributions to our past success, our current impacts and, hopefully, our future sustainable growth. But, as you know, donations are WAY down and the foundations that we used to be able to count upon for slam-dunk requests are slamming the phones down – or not even returning our calls.”
You look around the Zoom-room, noticing eyes averting as you avert your own gaze.
“And that means we either need to cut back or push forward,” says the ED, now with a bit more oomph in her tone.
“You know what ‘cut backs’ mean: job loss and loss of the progress and momentum that we’ve gained over the past few years. Those jobs would be lost across the organization, from the top to the bottom (and lots of places in between). And don’t even get me started on the thought of letting down even one of the vulnerable groups that desperately need our help. I don’t like the sound of that. Neither should you. And I can tell you that our Board isn’t pleased with that option, either.”
Alright……this doesn’t sound too apocalyptic, so you lean in.
“Instead, I am committing to pushing forward, as it our Board. Now, my tree-hugging friends, I know some of you get queasy thinking about money – except for every other Friday! I’m not much different myself, except I’m contractually-obligated to get beyond my own limitations and get uncomfortable as we seek out new solutions to incredibly new and incredibly complex problems like HOW DO YOU OPERATE A CHARITY IN A PANDEMIC? and HOW DO YOU PAY PEOPLE IF THE TRADITIONAL REVENUE STREAMS ARE DRYING UP?”
Like deer in the headlights, you notice in the Zoom mirror that your eyes are WIDE OPEN. So does your ED.
“Now, Nathan, calm down. I don’t expect you to be on the street in an animal costume banging a tambourine and begging for donations…..unless you really, really want to do that!”
“No, what I mean by pushing forward is we’ll need to be open-minded to learn how other industries and segments empower their work by generating revenue streams from non-traditional and ancillary sources. And to help us with that, I’d like to introduce you to a leading expert in the area of revenue generation through partnerships and sponsorships, with a wealth of positive experiences and happy clients dotting a career that spans decades.”
At that, a smiling older gentleman steps up to the virtual dais and begins speaking to you about the importance of the work that you do and the need to continue that work. He’ll eventually start discussing how for-cause groups like Basketball Canada and the ArtsGames use partnerships and sponsorships to drive new impacts and generate new revenues. It’s pretty interesting stuff and, admittedly, the presenter is really good. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all….