First off, I’m lying. It took me much longer than one year to learn these three things while working in the nonprofit world. But the title hopefully sounds good enough to grab your attention, and keep it for a few. So here goes, my not-for-profit friend:
1. Sometimes you just have to guide the conversation to get it to go where it should. A multi-year grant isn’t the MO ask of many nonprofits, and it really, really should be, especially with the insecurity that many nonprofits are facing due to Covid-19. This stuff is Non-profit 101, people! It enables the possibility of establishing a long-term relationship, it allows for real communication to flow, and it creates commitment for advancing the mission of the nonprofit by the nonprofit, by the grantor, and by, most of all, real people. And sometimes the bonds that form follow the people, so the help may continue in one form or another. Multi-year grants also allow for planning for the future for both the nonprofit AND the grantor. But I also think it is important that the non-profit know why they should be asking for much more. If you are the person in the know, practice the most-excellent elevator speech to explain why a multi-year grant is important not only for the grantee, but also for the grantor. Just try to make it look casual though, folks. Nobody wants to listen to a rote speech.
2. Don’t judge a book by its cover—including your own. Many times the Development Officer is the entry point into a nonprofit. And depending on the nonprofit, the pay available in the area, or the hiring savvy of the Those With Special Powers Be, what you get or what you see at first glance may not be an accurate representation of what is behind nonprofit door number one. A deeper dig may prove to be worthwhile. Look at what the nonprofit does. Does it fill a particular niche? What made you want to look there to begin with? And I totally believe in pushing the boundaries to make things better, whether it is inside me or outside in the nonprofit sector! So as a grantor with just a wee bit of power, we should all own it. Let's empower nonprofits by suggesting competitive pay scales like our counterparts in the non-non-profit sector.
3. Sometimes the answer to the question isn’t what is important. You may learn that it is really the space in between that catches your eye. Follow your intuition, follow your gut. And fuel up for the ride. People who chose to work in the nonprofit sector do it for a reason. And you may learn something that takes you in a different direction or makes you go “Ah-hah!” And it is the ah-hah moments that can give life more meaning. Along with multi-year grants, of course.
Stay well and stay hopeful,