BLOG > COVID-19 Presents a Unique Opportunity for Non-Profits

5 min read

WBMV Consulting helps organizations achieve their goals through partnership driven solutions.

Few people across the business world anticipated the extreme disruption to our lives, business and society that was brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. Months in, and businesses across multiple sectors have gone to the wall. Many more are still grappling with the wide-ranging consequences and just trying to navigate a way through.

For most non-profits, the viability of their organization has taken on a new and distinct sense of urgency. Heavy reliance on unpredictable revenue streams or restricted grants has always been a challenge, but today, as some observers have pointed out, many non-profit entities are under extreme pressure just to survive.1 Donors large and small are focused on safeguarding their own future. Fund-raising events have at best been scaled backed, at worst cancelled.

In April, Charity Navigator partnered with Reuters to assess the financial and programmatic impacts of Covid-19 on the non-profit sector. Fully 83% of respondents reported suffering financially and experiencing a decline in their income, with 64% reported having to cut back on their programs.2  Separately, the Institute of Fundraising in the UK also reported similar levels of financial hardship and reduction in programs.3

Even more concerning was the number of organizations that said the Covid-19 crisis would cause them to stop operating altogether within six months. A survey of Bond members found that 43% believed that they would not survive without urgent additional support. At a time when demand for their services is only likely to increase, the impact across the industry and consequently for those people and communities served, will be profound.3

While most non-profits have the resources to respond to crises, they are typically less equipped to make the long-term strategic changes necessary to cope with a crisis as big as COVID-19. Yet, if there is a silver lining in all of this, it is that it offers a rare opportunity to challenge fundamental assumptions about how non-profits run their operations.

Now is the time to challenge current orthodoxies and the ‘way things have always been done around here.’ That doesn’t mean changing your mission or who you serve, but it does mean being prepared to test some new ways in how you go about it.

Here are some ideas that can help non-profits not only survive the current crisis but come out stronger on the other side. We believe that implementing some or all of these commercial approaches will help reduce the unpredictability of revenue streams and improve your ability to weather future storms that will inevitably come.

Experiment with a Social Enterprise approach.

Adopting a more commercially focused revenue generation approach enables you to self-finance all or some of your activities. For example, can you sell existing or new goods and services related to your mission? Are there assets that can be deployed in a more commercially viable way? Partnerships with commercial entities can play a key role in this evolution. Not only can they provide immediate revenue generating opportunities, but they can also help your organization develop additional managerial and business expertise, which would in turn help you to execute the new strategic approach.

Re-evaluate your existing partnerships.

If you have existing partnerships, re-evaluate your approach. As is the case with commercial customers, it’s often far easier and more cost effective to expand the scope of an existing relationship and start a new commercial arrangement with them, than it is to acquire and develop a new partnership. Where possible, try to incorporate your partners’ most urgent priorities into the new partnership agreement.  

Look for capabilities you can monetize.

Look for elements of your expertise that you can monetize with existing or new customers and partners. Your organization will have distinct capabilities that others are willing to pay for. This may lie in the knowledge and deep experience you have in a particular sector, or it could be in the reach that your organization has in hereto untapped markets. Why do others seek out your organization?

Reframe your donors.

Change the perspective from which you view your current and potential donors. Think of them through the more business-like lens of a paying customer. Can you charge for experiences, services or goods? How do you create additional value to your offering beyond the feel-good factor or tax benefit that may accrue to them? Give your ‘customers’ more reasons to come back and ‘buy’ from you more often. 

Non-profits have always marketed their cause to donors, but rarely take a ‘customer centric’ approach where the needs of the customer take center stage. Once you’ve taken a full assessment of your donors’ priorities, look for. Now is a great time to experiment with creative ways. 

In summary.

Whatever the nature of the changes you choose to pursue, you must also be prepared to modify your structure, your operating process and the skillset of your staff to manage a more commercially oriented approach. Creating this supporting infrastructure is essential to the long-term viability of the approach and therefore your organization.

Given the potentially disastrous drop in revenue it’s easy to understand the desire to focus solely on the immediate task at hand, but with such disruption, there also comes a new opportunity to push boundaries and reimagine what your organization can do. Now is the time to act. Those that succeed are likely to create a more impactful and sustainable organization for many years to come, whatever the crisis brings in the coming months.  


To find out how WBMV Consulting can help your non-profit or business, contact us today.