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  • Pat Libby

How to prepare your nonprofit for a good New Year

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

I’m a planner.

We haven’t heard the last jingle of the season or toasted farewell to 2018, but I’ve been thinking ahead for months about what’s in store for 2019.

(True confessions: I’ve mapped out my work calendar through next June).

When I was a nonprofit CEO, I always thought the later-in-the-month lazy days of December, when the pace slows and most everyone is in a good mood, were an excellent time to reflect and plan a strategy for 2019.

With that in mind, here’s my list of what every nonprofit should be thinking about for the New Year:

1. Advocacy and lobbying

Regardless of whether you’re a Board member or a staff member leading a social service agency, an arts organization, a medical research center or any other type of nonprofit, you’ve got to be thinking about how to engage in advocacy for the cause you represent.

Hint: as the federal deficit balloons out of control, what kinds of things do you think will be cut?

Even if you’re not funded by the feds, there is such a thing as trickle down – and I don’t mean the good kind.

Now I know that lobbying can sound scary and complicated, but there are lots and lots of resources that are available to help you figure out what to do.

If you’re…

  • wondering what’s permissible by law, you can watch my video where I explain the rules in plain English.

Lobbying is NOT a four-letter word

Additionally, if you're...

2. Build the capacity of your staff and board

I have never met a nonprofit that didn’t operate on an exceedingly tight budget. And to be successful as a nonprofit, you’ve got to “work smart.”

The best way to do that, is to invest some of your precious financial resources in staff development.

(Board development is pretty important too)

Investing in staff capacity will yield dividends throughout the year because, if the training is any good, your staff will feel energized, empowered, and have new ideas about how to do their jobs more effectively.

Ditto for volunteer Board leaders.

There are lots of fabulous training resource everywhere in the country, including where I live, such as:

  • The Nonprofit Institute at the University of San Diego which offers a cornucopia of formal and informal educational programs that are best-practiced based and reasonably priced.

  • Nonprofit Management Solutions or the nonprofit management support center in your community, which offers affordably-priced workshops and programs designed for all types of nonprofit practitioners.

  • Junior League -- a largely all-volunteer group of women who do fabulous work which includes inspiring and training others how to engage and make an impact.

3. Raise your profile.

As I’m writing this blog, I know a lot of nonprofit execs are biting their nails to see how the movie called “Year-end Giving: A Story of Hope” is going to end.

We know that prior to last year’s tax reform act, approximately 30% of all tax-filers itemized and now that figure will drop to somewhere between 5-10%.

There was a steady decline in giving from middle income households even before these changes were made: roughly ¾ of all US households gave to charity in 2000 and only slightly more than half gave in 2014.

So what’s a nonprofit to do?

Promote your good work!

Raise your visibility!

Tell your story!

Think about how to raise funds differently!

The Salsa Blog has listed some great ideas to try!

Wild Apricot also has some great tips from Jasmine Marrow (former Director of Nonprofit Strategy at GuideStar.)

So here’s a virtual toast to what’s to come in 2019.

I can’t see what’s around the corner, but I know there’s a lot of work ahead.

Happy New Year!



Pat Libby is a nonprofit consultant. Pat works with organizations on organizational strategy and re-imagining boards. She also helps nonprofits with lobbying efforts, and conducts executive searches.

Pat has served as an academic, senior executive, board member, and consultant to innumerable nonprofit organizations and foundations for more than three decades.

Get in touch if you have any questions!


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