Fairmount InSights

After a year full of unknowns, quick pivots, and unanswered questions, many organizations are feeling the pressure to make thoughtful and informed changes to everything from service delivery models to stakeholder communication plans while staying true to their “north star” – the guiding vision that keeps them aligned with mission.

Fairmount Ventures’ clients are each being called to confront their foundational values in the context of the past year’s crisis. Philanthropic individuals and institutions are asking nonprofits, “Who are you in the midst of all this? What do you have to offer when the world is upside down?” And, perhaps more importantly, “How will it guide and impact your organization’s future?” When determining priorities and goals in a post-pandemic world, the path forward might wind and twist a lot more, but the destination needs to be shared by everyone, rooted in strategy, and communicated actively. Especially in resource development, nonprofits must stay oriented to their long-term goals while addressing more urgent community and revenue needs. Below are a few of the successful examples we’ve seen and supported this past year.

One of our arts and culture clients needed to swiftly redesign a popular in-person program to a virtual space. While translating the lessons into PDFs and creating at-home supply kits for participants happened quickly, the question of how to maintain the participants’ sense of connection and belonging was a challenge, especially when the newest members of the program had never met their peers in person. By homing in on what was most essential, our team worked with program leaders to identify their most effective interventions, such as one-on-one home visits and socially distant outdoor activities, that kept participants engaged week after week. We drew from these adjustments to inform strategic asks to longtime funders, ensuring that the grants the organization received were more flexible, and are now leading to deeper sustained relationships.

Another client in health services faced declining patient numbers after its community clinics closed to the public. The organization had a van outfitted with medical equipment that made visits throughout the community, but its aging condition could not handle a sharp uptick in use. By framing this existing need within the context of the pandemic and making the case for flexible mobile health services in a post-COVID world, we supported the organization in engaging a first-time capital funder to help purchase a new van, giving it the freedom and agency to plan additional programming, reconnect with previous patients, and grow its reach through emerging community-based collaborations.

Conversations about what resources an organization needs to operate in the day-to-day and advance its guiding mission may be difficult to advance simultaneously, but they can bring what matters into immediate focus, and help to communicate the most pressing needs to funders. As philanthropy continues to re-evaluate how and where its wealth can best support the sector, foundations and corporations will rely on feedback from the organizations they support to understand how nonprofits are recalibrating and taking new, if not multiple, routes to their destination. Success requires clarifying what is most essential in your short-to-medium perspective without losing sight of the big-picture planning needed to stay aligned with long-term operational, capital, or programmatic goals.

The distance between what you know for sure, what you’re planning on, and what is yet to be written is vast. With mindful strategy rooted in adaptability and flexible approaches, Fairmount can help your nonprofit ensure that no matter what’s on the horizon, you’re ready to respond.

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