Thriving in Tough Economic Times

© ReSolve, Inc. 2008

I was talking with a friend whose business has already been dramatically changed by the burgeoning recession. He asked if the recession was going to hurt the work being done at Help 4 NonProfits and the Community-Driven Institute.

I just laughed. “Are you kidding? We work with people who never think they have any money, and never think they will be able to get what they need! Community organizations don’t need a recession to feel broke!”

Still, the economy has leaders in this sector nervous. It was not long ago that the “dot-com” stock market crash was on everyone’s lips. In those days, foundations woke up one morning to find they had lost 1/3 of their assets. Not good news for the organizations they funded!

The effect of this coming recession on corporate and foundation giving, and even to some extent on individual giving, may be very real indeed.

So What Is There to Do?
This is the perfect time to build what your organization should be building all along: Sustainability - and in particular Community-Driven Sustainability.

Community-Driven Sustainability is about more than just money. It is about building on ALL the assets and resources your organization has at its disposal - far more than just money - and then engaging and activating ALL those assets to work for you.

There is no better time to be identifying and building upon all your organization’s assets than when times are tough. Why? Because building your assets doesn’t mean asking anyone for anything that has to do with money - the thing they are most scared about during a recession.

Identifying and building upon your assets is about all the rest of the assets that can help further your mission - assets you and others will feel perfectly happy to share during these tough economic times.

All organizations have these four assets:

Mission-related assets

Physical assets

Human assets

Community assets

 Use It Today

The Use It Today tip is therefore quite simple:

Vow to use these tough times to identify and build up your assets. When times are tough, those assets will pull you through. When times are good, you will be in better shape than you can imagine.

Activating Your Assets - A Hard Times Story
A small counseling center in upstate New York had been struggling financially for some time. The board was not comfortable asking their neighbors and friends for money, as times were tough for everyone in this small, rural community. What could they do?.

Under the leadership of an insightful board president, the board began changing its focus. Instead of focusing on money, they instead focused on building up their assets - their human assets in particular.

They began identifying those human assets - everyone they knew. And then they began activating those human assets.

They did NOT ask them for money. Instead, they asked for their wisdom, their ideas, their thoughts about the counseling center’s mission. Each of those individuals, and each of their ideas became another asset to build upon!

After just 6 months, here is what their board president told us:

“We have no more money problems. And no, we really did not ask for money. Instead, we engaged people we already knew, and had them lead us to others who cared about the work we were doing, and we just asked and listened and shared conversations about our mission. People offered to help in all kinds of ways - things we had never thought to ask for!

When we stopped focusing on the money, and started realizing how much we had to build upon by engaging the community in our mission, the money took care of itself.

It’s time to stop bemoaning what we do not have, worrying about how the recession will hurt us.

It is time instead to start identifying what we DO have, and building upon that. With those assets to provide you with sustenance, you will be ready for whatever storms may hit.

And then, when the bad times clear and things are once again “back to normal,” you will have spent your bad times wisely. Rather than merely trying to survive, you will have been preparing your organization to thrive, long into the future.

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