Lessons Nonprofits Should Never Forget

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As I write this, I have just finished writing a newswire about the challenges Baton Rouge nonprofits will face this fall. Some have already cancelled their regular fall fundraising to concentrate on responding to the crisis in a way that takes care of the most injured first and does not eat up money that must be dedicated right now to relief. It is a powerful story, and it reminded me of a study done after the attacks on 9/11 that looked at the factors that helped some nonprofits do better for their constituents and their own organizations.

It is one of my favorite articles of all time because it is grounded, vivid, and rigorous all at once. You can feel the truth in it and the pathos of it, and as a result the lessons about factors leading to grace and usefulness and sustainability under pressure are memorable.

And then I did a newswire about a nonprofit supporting independent living for people with disabilities that ended its work somewhat abruptly, leaving 900 of their constituents having to look for other providers. As reported, the organization had a tendency to isolate itself, holding its troubles secret even as they worsened. Such behaviors stand in stark contrast to those described in the article by Rikki Abzug and Dennis Derryck.

This trio of pieces is worth reading and thinking about. As we stand in awe and humility regarding the astounding resourcefulness of civil society, consider this: How would your own organization function under such stress?