Every couple of weeks or so, I receive a call from a loyal supporter. He calls to chat about the work of HBI – and to encourage me. Let’s call him Jim, as he has not permitted me to use his real name.
Jim is a super nice guy. He always tells me what a great job HBI is doing and how much he enjoys supporting our efforts and watching our progress. The other day on our call, he said that it just seems like things are “too hard” and that they “shouldn’t be so hard.” Jim’s right – things sure as heck are hard . . . but I am not sure they are supposed to be anything other than challenging.
One of the parts about not-for-profit work that makes it so hard is that we rely on soft funding – donations, grants, foundations, to keep our work going. We don’t make a product to sell. We don’t have a direct service we can market. We are selling and marketing our efforts to address some of the biggest challenges on the planet—things like homelessness, hunger, climate change, and child welfare.
Sure, several NGOs meld fundraising with “for-profit” activities, selling merchandise, spinning a portion of program activities into the pay-for-services realm, and even shopping their technical assistance and consulting services. These are great alternative revenue streams for not-for-profits . . . and HBI has tried its hat at a few of them. The problem, if our work is focused on addressing the most underserved populations and creatively engaging the most marginalized of issues – we can’t also be accountable to the brass ring of profit.
I guess what I am saying is this . . . this is hard work, and it’s supposed to be. There is nothing easy about managing an almost million-dollar budget – with donations or widget sales. HBI is in a unique funding cycle at this time. It’s one of the phases that every not-for-profit goes through. We are cash strapped. For HBI, this cash-strapped scenario means we have a pipeline of money we have predicted will come in throughout the year – grants, foundations, events, and private donors – and the money hasn’t arrived yet.
So this leads me to a request – if you are considering donating to HBI, now is the time. We will make it through this phase – we always do. It’s a real privilege to be on this journey with all of you. It is, however, a time when the work of running a not-for-profit feels extra hard. Thank you, as always, for all your trust and confidence in our work.