Keys to Nonprofit Success in Complex Times

Creativity and resilience are critical to achieving your goals


Nonprofits are the backbone of a civil society and a thriving economy. This has never been more evident than in the past two years. Throughout the pandemic, charitable organizations adapted in order to provide critical support, including innovations in health care and access to food security. In addition, nonprofits across the sector responded to calls for racial justice with compassion and courage.

Nonprofit leaders and practitioners have learned many lessons during this historic period.  Most notably, it is even more important for nonprofits to be laser focused on key success factors that help them advance their missions during increasingly complex times and prepare for unknown, future disruptions. 


The learnings and best practices below have been gleaned from organizations who not only survived but thrived in 2020, with a focus on operations, communications, fundraising, finances, and leadership.

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Times of uncertainty are unnerving, but organizations with existing plans in place are better positioned to weather them. These times may also present opportunities for new ideas, collaborations, and innovative funding models.  Nonprofits must act in a measured, thoughtful way. Making extreme changes to organizational structure, your endowment model or your staffing can result in potentially unnecessary or unintended future consequences. Organizations caught off-guard by a disruption can take immediate steps to adjust, reduce expenses, leverage partnerships and continue fundraising efforts. Thinking carefully and leveraging your board’s and financial advisor’s expertise can provide continuity in a complex time.

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1 Fleming Glennon, Margie. “Responding to the Coronavirus Outbreak: Resources to Help Nonprofits.” Published March 12, 2020, page retrieved March 14, 2020.

2 Gibson, Sara. “Coronavirus Advice for Nonprofit Leaders.” Published March 9, 2020, page retrieved March 13, 2020.

3 Bank of America® Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy

4 Streiff, Justin. “Coronavirus and fundraising: don’t change anything.” Published March 11, 2020, page retrieved March 13, 2020.

5 Gibson, Sara. “Coronavirus Advice for Nonprofit Leaders.” Published March 9, 2020, page retrieved March 13, 2020.