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How to Give When You’re a Nonprofit . . . With No Money to Give


Published on

12 - 21 - 2015

image of pink and purple webs with a black background

Recently Latino Outdoors’ founder José Gonzales shared his passion for collective impact at the Outdoors Empowered Network summit. Collective impact is a model by which deeply entrenched societal problems are tackled through innovative collaborations across nongovernmental organizations, agencies, private enterprise, foundations, communities, and other stakeholders.

Though not without its flaws, collective impact is also a framework to think about giving and gratitude when you’re a nonprofit with no money to give, especially during the holiday season.

See, lately, we’ve come to realize that most of the Avarna Group’s good fortune is the direct result of people giving us the gift of “the good word.” And we mean that in the least religious sense. Our network of friends, colleagues, supporters, partners, and—yes—even competitors, have shared the news of our launch, links to our website, and our business cards . . . with no guaranteed return.

This holiday, we’ve been thinking about how to give in the nontraditional sense. When you’re stretched for funding, when you’re a nonprofit that’s making frantic calls to donors to bring in that last chunk of funding to meet budget, how can you be expected to give?

Here are some ways we have thought about giving in a time when we too are firmly in the red.

  • Promoting others in the movement: The social media age commands an uncomfortable level of self-promotion. But organizations benefit more when others promote them than when they promote themselves. So pepper your social media campaigns with little notes of gratitude for others who are doing good work.
  • Champion colleagues who do the same work: We operate with a mindset of abundance, and not scarcity. That is, we know there is plenty of work in equity, inclusion, and diversity to go around (sadly, we are far from reaching market saturation). So when we encounter others who are doing the same work we do, we rejoice. The mission is more important than any one of us. So give a shout out to others who are doing good work and (as JFK said) the rising tide will lift all our boats.
  • Providing free resources on our website: None of our insights are novel, and none of our teachings are new. We stand on the shoulders of social and environmental justice advocates, facilitators, activists, academics, and writers who have come before us. So we’ve developed a robust searchable platform of curated resources and are keeping our fingers crossed that they will spark further collaboration.
  • Mentoring: We are so grateful for the mentors who have lighted the way for us, and realize we need to pay it forward by providing advice (for what it’s worth!) to people engaged in our work who are not as far along in their careers.
  • Giving work to others: Yes, we are a brand new venture and we are giving work to others. We believe in playing to our strengths and amplifying our impact by enlisting talented folks whose work may overlap but is not squarely in our wheelhouse. So when a prospective client seeks guidance that we are psyched to provide, we invite those with expertise to collaborate with us to create the best possible product or service.

With the collective impact model, we give a little, and hope our beneficiaries will pay it forward through our networks until some support eventually boomerangs its way back to us. Trusting this process has been challenging. But it’s working!

So even if you’re stretched for funding, give the gift of your support this season. The more we can prop each other up, the more likely we will bring our shared vision of a more socially and environmentally just world into fruition.