How to Deal with a Sticky Situation like a Government Shutdown

Diana Leon-Taylor said recently that, “The nonprofit community serves as the glue that solves a lot of problems in a community.”  Leon-Taylor, the President/CEO of the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, was referring to the current government shutdown.

“Statistics show that any community that has a strong nonprofit sector has a strong economy,” she continued.

Rob Stott quoted Leon-Taylor and several others in an article I read the other day, which led me to think about the impact of the problems that arise for the nonprofit community during a government shutdown.

In the article, it’s implied that, as government payments are delayed, cash flow leads to layoffs or furloughs, which impacts the staffing side of nonprofits. However, the challenges don’t end there.

Although many people don’t believe the shutdown will last much longer, some say there has already been damage to those most in need. It will fall on many social and human service nonprofits to support the increased demand for services and resources.

Many such clients that I work with receive a lot of their funding from the government, and are likely to begin seeing effects soon, if they haven’t already. In our experience counseling social and human service organizations, we’ve learned it’s imperative that they maintain a strong individual donor outreach and a diverse revenue stream, in order to lessen the impact of outside factors such as a government shutdown.

Additionally we’ve just entered the fourth quarter of 2013, during which most nonprofits normally receive the largest amount of donations for the year, and individual donors are experiencing increased angst due to the mounting issues in Washington, D.C. These days, it seems like the only certainty is donor uncertainty!

So – what should your organization do?

  1. Keep your focus on your mission by continuing your work to positively impact others!
  2. Stay organized to accomplish your mission. Keep track of your income and budget, and create a contingency plan just in case you need to cut back on anything.
  3. Maintain communication with those whose lives are impacted by your organization, particularly if services, resources or funding may be delayed.
  4. Likewise, maintain communication with your donors. Similar to during the “great recession,” keep in touch during this time, and inform them of ways they can help your nonprofit.

As Leon-Taylor said, I also believe nonprofit organizations are the “glue” that holds many communities together. During times of uncertainty like these, our duty is to make sure it sticks!