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Words of Wisdom for Nonprofits in 2023
Friends of the Firm

From Corporate & Community Foundation Leaders

Michelle Cramer, CFRE, President & CEO

As we move into 2023, many nonprofit leaders are experiencing feelings of uncertainty and anxiety resulting from talk of a recession, rising costs, labor shortages… I could go on and on. Nonprofits are feeling the impacts of these challenges on those they serve, and within their own organization: meeting the tremendous increase in demand for programs and services; struggling to fill open positions; dealing with staff burnout; increasing operating budgets; cutbacks in public funding; and countless other obstacles.

Sounds overwhelming, right? Yet somehow, these courageous leaders press forward with huge hearts and unwavering commitments to their mission.

As the team thought about ways we could reassure and support our nonprofit leaders, we decided to reach out to some of our corporate and community foundation leaders, and asked them if they would share some words of wisdom.

And WOW – did they respond quickly! Why? Because they genuinely care, not only about your mission, but also about you, and your ability to persevere.

We simply asked this question:

What is your biggest piece of advice or words of wisdom for nonprofits in 2023?

And here is what they had to say:

“There are two pieces of advice that come to mind. The first is simple — be real. As partners, we want to understand your organization’s challenges just as much as we want to celebrate your successes. Don’t be afraid to share the obstacles you are facing, because there may be ways we can support you.

As we continue to navigate new approaches to the workplace and operating in a hybrid environment, cultivating meaningful opportunities for our associates to connect with their community is a top priority. My second piece of advice is to be intentional about sharing engagement opportunities with your partners. Every organization will say they’d love to invite employees to volunteer, but the nonprofits that really stick out will take the initiative to cultivate creative projects that align with our company culture. It shows that engaging our people is really a priority for you, rather than a way to ‘check the stewardship box.’”

Katie Cramer | Senior Philanthropy and Events Specialist at Big Lots

“More than ever, it’s important to build deep and emotional relationships with partners and share quantifiable impact through meaningful storytelling.”

Ronak Fields | Associate Vice President, Community Relations at Bath & Body Works Foundation

“My advice to nonprofits is to continue to push grantors to embrace trust-based philanthropy. Continue to work alongside partners to dismantle social norms that prevent organizations from realizing their true impact. Last, be the disrupting force that is needed in every community to fulfill your organization’s mission.”

Sophia Fifner | Executive Director of NiSource Charitable Foundation and Director Internal & External Communications at NiSource

“The last few years have seen the largest influx of public support into the nonprofit sector we have ever experienced. A variety of federal programs helped our local charities to not only meet the increased service demands and challenges brought on by the pandemic, but also, in many cases, to ensure survival of the nonprofit ecosystem and safety net from collapse. Private philanthropy was not enough…without this unprecedented infusion of public dollars, the sector would not have remained intact.

2023 will see the final distribution of many ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] funds in communities across our nation. There is a justified fear by many NPO leaders of what the future holds as this huge flow of federal support dollars to our communities’ winds down and, likely, comes to an end.

The public support did its job; it allowed for increased services to so many in need during difficult times and protected the sector. The extremely difficult and thoroughly fun and invigorating role of encouraging and capturing private philanthropy will once again return to center stage.

I am not discouraged and am quite optimistic about giving as we look forward…we have history on our side. We all know that the vast majority of giving is by individuals and history has shown that giving has remained a remarkably steady 2% of GDP over decades and decades. Individuals in our communities remain steadfastly committed to helping their neighbors in need and those causes they care dearly about. Of course, we know it takes lots of time and effort to raise major gift dollars from individuals…but we also know the rewards and the pay-offs for our organizations and sector are great.

Mike Parks | President at The Dayton Foundation

“My biggest piece of advice: reach out and introduce yourself and your organization, learn about the funder and their focus before asking for any money. Build a partnership, not a checkbook.”

Cecilia H. Render | Executive Director at Nordson Corporation Foundation

“I am often reminded of the portion of the African proverb that says, ‘If you want to go far, go together.’ This year, I encourage nonprofits to explore and lean into all the possibilities that collaboration could offer.”

Elon Simms | Vice President, Community Impact at Crane Group

I am so grateful to the philanthropic leaders who shared their insights. Their support demonstrates how much they care about the work of nonprofits. Clearly, their investment goes far beyond monetary backing.

Before I end, I thought I would share with you my own words of wisdom and advice:

“Stay positive and move forward with a mindset of abundance, as opposed to scarcity, and you will attract more new donors than you could imagine.”

Through all of the uncertain and wonderful things this year will bring, my team and I are here for you, ready to walk alongside you and your team, should you need support or guidance. I encourage you to print all of these words of wisdom, hang them up where you can see them, and let them serve as inspiration as you move forward in 2023.

Onward & upward!

– Michelle Cramer, CFRE

Download These Words of Wisdom (Printable)

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