Wisdom from the Front Lines

9 Things Nonprofits Want You to Know (but may be reluctant to tell you)

“I cannot do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good that I can do.” -Jana Stanfield

What should we do when we don’t know what to do? The answer for us is simple: Listen. Every donor and funder we know has the same burning question: how do I help right now, really? What’s my role in the evolving crisis? How do I engage my kids in the conversation? Should I delay giving and protect my own portfolio, or is now the time my community needs me the most?

Donors are responding with quick action - from relaxing giving requirements, to digging deep and giving more, to providing in-kind resources. But are the responses really what organizations need and want?

Vario decided to take these questions to a virtual happy hour of nonprofits from several of our clients, and receive some wisdom and direction from the front lines. We asked them what they want donors to know - but may be reluctant to voice.


LISTEN FIRST. Ask us what we need before offering ideas.

PROVIDE GENERAL OPERATING SUPPORT. This allows us the most flexibility to plan for and respond to rapidly changing circumstances.

BE OUR PARTNER, NOT JUST A DONOR. Help us explore our options, be a sounding board, and help us chart a path forward. Sometimes this thought partnership and knowing that you're with us are as important as your financial support.

ADJUST YOUR LONG-TERM GIVING STRATEGY - FOR NOW. We need your flexible support now so that we can be here on the other side of the crisis. We look forward to joining you on your strategic work once we’ve all emerged on the other side.

STICK WITH US. We need you now more than ever. Your support provides us with much needed business continuity, which decreases the complexity of what we’re facing.

BE FLEXIBLE. Give us the ability to shift your gift/grant to meet current/emerging needs.

BE TRANSPARENT. As soon as you know, let us know your future plans so we can plan appropriately.

FUND OUR GREATEST ASSET. We live and die by our people, our employees. Help us keep our team together during these times.

THANK YOU. Thank you for believing in us yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Your support makes our mission possible and we couldn’t do it without you. Soon, we’ll celebrate the lives touched and impact we made together during these uncertain times.

We used a virtual, anonymous, whiteboard lab through Zoom to spark this feedback. See the picture below. We hope their words are as thought-provoking to you as they are to us.

Have you landed on a way of giving that other donors or funders can learn from? Reach out and let us know. We’d love to build another edition highlighting right-sized, right-timed responses. Need help navigating the waters, figuring out where to give or how to engage your family, or some extra time to research gaps in your community? Vario is here to help. And, as always - thanks for the important thought, investment, and leadership you bring that actively shapes the vitality of our communities.

Thank you.
~Team Vario