As a philanthropic foundation professional for over eight years, I see long-term donor investment and long-term organizational planning (certainly two related actions) as an aspiration that is not always implemented in meaningful ways. Fewer than half of nonprofits have more than three months of cash reserves; close to 10 percent have less than 30 days. Most nonprofits have no endowments, so the day-to-day nature of the organizational structure is a stark reminder that today’s nonprofit may look very different tomorrow.

When I look at this Warriors team, I know that by the measurement of wins and losses, the 2019-2020 season has been underwhelming. In the nonprofit world, we would think about this in terms of a missed short-term objective. Directly related to this current shortcoming, however, is my belief that this season is laying strong foundations for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 seasons to come, thanks to the planning, organization management, and players that management has brought in to be on the team.

Now, let’s bring this scenario back to our nonprofit world. Imagine that not only the CEOs, but the highest quality fundraisers, financial officers, and program professionals all were factored into an organization’s long-term planning. What if all of these employees felt valued and felt that their role with the organization was integral to the organization’s future plans and potential success? A byproduct of this intentional planning would be a sense of security for all the professionals in the organization. How might this influence the pursuits of those professionals?

A fundraising professional, for example, might feel less pressure during an annual campaign or an emergency campaign, and instead have the confidence to explore blue-sky scenarios in which investments are made for the long term. An employee’s sense of security — and faith in the organization’s future — is integral not just for that organization’s ability to plan for the future, but also for the organization’s ability to implement that plan. For many of the organizations with which the Jim Joseph Foundation partners and supports, losing a key member of their professional team — whether C-suite, mid-tier, or more entry level — would have a major impact on their ability to plan and program.

With the Warriors blueprint in mind — being opportunistic, giving young players time to learn, signing key veterans, and more — what can our field do to position organizations for long-term success? I see five key actions:

  1. Invest in professionals for the long term through competitive compensation.
  2. Provide professional development that is not just training staff for what they currently do, but prepares them for what they might be asked to do in the future.
  3. Offer access to conferences and professional learning communities both within and outside of the scope of the organization.
  4. Create a matrix-style organizational structure where each member of the team has opportunities to lead and shine.
  5. Secure operating reserves (and temporary and permanent endowments as possible) in order to ensure lasting fiscal security.

Read the full article about organizational planning by Steven Green at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.