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The Nonprofit Market: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

December 29, 2009 By Robin Fisk

Looking back on the year, 2009 can be characterized as a rollercoaster ride for nonprofits. Fearing the worst, the industry so far has seen an 11 percent decrease in donations, according to a September 2009 report by the Charities Aid Foundation and National Council for Voluntary Organisations. This has been especially hard on small organizations, with many of them getting squeezed out by their larger, more national counterparts. At the same time, many charities with similar missions have come together, creating partnerships or merging in order to survive the economic downturn — and ensure the proper support for their causes. Although this has been a difficult time for nonprofits, 2009 has made organizations aware of how they need to shape up. 

Surviving in 2009: Lessons Learned
During the recession, nonprofits learned how to maximize efficiency.  Many organizations had to take a hard look at cost-saving measures and strategically spend where donations could be directly impacted.  Unfortunately, nonprofits cut head count and reduced expenses; meanwhile, they had to find new ways of getting tasks completed — with less staff and resources — while keeping contributions from falling. The industry saw organizations turn to automating manual job functions and sharing infrastructure and technology to be more effective in the challenging economy.
Throughout the past year, nonprofits also took steps to re-evaluate poor management. With limited staff, organizations have learned how important it is for everyone to work together as a team. They understood the need for greater focus on business processes and increased awareness of what occurs on a day-to-day basis. This has allowed organizations to run more smoothly and be better prepared to face the operational challenges that might arise, especially for when the global economy begins to pick up over the next year.
Most importantly, nonprofits learned how critical it is to never forget the basics. Organizations re-aligned their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), monitored them closely and adjusted their development plans to maximize fundraising opportunities. During the recession, nonprofits realized that they no longer could solely rely on corporate giving.  They saw the need to have more well-spread funding, forge better donor relationship and refocus on retention due to the hard economic times.
Nonprofits have an opportunity to learn from these experiences and thrive with the recovering economy in 2010.  They have used the past, difficult year to re-evaluate everything they do and see what practices work best for them. The strategic improvements that already have started to be made will better position nonprofits for the next year and beyond.



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