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Nonprofit Experts Call For "The Great Nonprofit RESET" in 2021

For nonprofits, 70% expect growth in 2021. The hiring outlook lags behind with 42% hiring and about half planning to achieve growth with their current team. Most nonprofits will be in a better position to hire in late 2021.

Based on a new 2021 survey of nonprofits, 70% expect growth.

Survey participants were predominantly leaders within their nonprofit and came from a range of sectors. 50% were under $1M and had 1-10 employees.

Nonprofit survey participants mimicked national trends - most were small nonprofits with 1-50 employees.

The experts included: Susan Kelly of Kelly Strategies, Suzanne Smith of Social Impact Architects, Kim Bulger of Atigro, and John Gillespie of CRCFO.

Speaker Headshots

With impact of COVID, nonprofits have had to shift quickly to answer the call of their communities. But, as a sector, do we need to pivot or completely RESET?

For nonprofits, due to COVID, the rules of the game have changed and it presents an opportunity to “leapfrog” – adopting new and more innovative approaches to their mission, operations and culture.”
— Suzanne Smith, Founder & CEO, Social Impact Architects
DALLAS, TEXAS, 75204, February 24, 2021 / -- A cross-disciplinary team of nonprofit experts - Kim Bulger of Atigro, John Gillespie of CRCFO, Susan Kelly of Kelly Strategies, and Suzanne Smith of Social Impact Architects - conducted a survey of nonprofits in January 2021 to better understand the challenges facing the social sector and gather their top priorities.

According to the survey, while many nonprofits were focused on “survival” in 2020, nonprofits are embracing an optimistic growth outlook, with 70% expecting growth in 2021. But, each organization’s experience was unique. Some faced drastic revenue declines and related staff reductions, while others experienced a surge in need, increased complexity and revenue. Beneath those challenges is an opportunity for the social sector to rise to the occasion collectively.

Hundreds joined a follow-up webinar to share the survey results (see attached results) and discuss tailored, action-oriented advice on next steps for both nonprofits and funders.

Some of the trends included:

+Right-sizing planning for 2021 around “battle plans” instead of strategic plans – recognizing change will continue
+Moving upstream to start solving problems at the source through coordinated community strategies
+Advancing equity as a core value
+Prioritizing on donor retention and truly excellent stewardship
+Shifting business models to both scale impact and to create financial sustainability
+Focusing on “less is more” with many nonprofits concentrating on what they do best instead of returning to all pre-COVID activities
+Embracing “digital first” for program delivery and audience engagement

Experts also coined "The Great Nonprofit Reset" and offered suggestions to both nonprofits and funders, including those below:

+Conduct a NEW needs assessment with paired measures (i.e., quantitative, qualitative) to understand what your customers really need now to achieve your mission
+Focus on improving systems efficiency in all areas of the business to streamline operations and to reduce operating expenses
+Ensure your development infrastructure – donation functions, prospect tracking, reporting – are functional and intuitive
+Update messaging to deliver value relevant to new needs and reflect urgency
+Audit your website for mobile-first, search-optimized, fast load and conversion

+Integrate “trust-based philanthropy” into your grants strategy
+Support capacity-building funding for consultant expertise, technology updates and other critical nonprofits gaps
+Encourage and guide donor-advised fund holders to unlock additional funds for general operating and programmatic purposes
+Consider shared services arrangements for smaller nonprofits to share bookkeepers, CPAs and CFOs with nonprofit expertise
+Provide streamlined board recruitment, student internship and skills-based volunteer recruitment opportunities specific to nonprofit sector

Participants walked away inspired and activated and one commented "I was stuck before, but now I see a light at the end of the tunnel and look forward to putting these ideas into action in 2021."


John Gillespie leads the nonprofit and social enterprise practice at CRCFO. He works as an outsourced CFO advising nonprofits on financial operations, P&L analysis, budgeting, reporting and more. Website: Email: Phone: 781.431.0420 x120.

Suzanne Smith is the founder and CEO of Social Impact Architects. She is a serial social entrepreneur and serves as a strategy consultant to nonprofits, government, and foundations on strategic planning, growth strategies, social impact/innovation, earned income and more. She also teaches at the University of Texas at Arlington and Pepperdine University. Website: Email: Phone: 214.957.0903.

Susan Kelly is the CEO of Kelly Strategies. She is a born fundraiser and strategist advising nonprofits on development planning, fundraising strategy, revenue forecasting, capital campaigns and more. Website: Email: Phone: 703.599.7817.

Kim Bulger is the CMO at Atigro. She is an outsourced CMO advising nonprofits on digital marketing, content marketing, engaging websites, and online engagement of customers, members and donors. Website: Email: Phone: 703.587.6734.

Suzanne Smith
Social Impact Architects
+1 214-957-0903
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