Your Nonprofit in the New Year: 6 Ways of Being for 2020

Each December we find ourselves reviewing our work from the year to determine what to keep, what to throw away, and what to add in the New Year. In over 30 years of working for and with nonprofits one of my most dreaded and frequently heard statements is, “we’ve always done it this way.”

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited with saying “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”


You may be very happy with what you have done and who you have been. However, even though some of what we intend to do may look the same, it isn’t, because the time, the people, and the circumstances are different. Year-end reflection is an opportunity to thoughtfully review and to intentionally decide who and how we should be as we step into next year’s river.

To help with your reflection here are 6 prompts on “ways to be” that can help you set the stage for a great 2020!

1) Be real.

Make accurate statements about your organizational capacity. Overpromising and underdelivering is never a good strategy. Be realistic both internally and externally. If your outward message says one thing but you don’t have the internal capacity to deliver, then you’ve created a situation that compromises the integrity of your organization. This is particularly important in fundraising. If investors have expectations based on what you told them you would deliver but you aren’t capable of meeting those expectations, the likelihood of them making an investment down the road is slim.

2) Be transparent.

Be an organization that proactively shares information honestly about results. Successful, as well as, less than successful results. If goals aren’t being met at the pace you originally set, transparency can feel like vulnerability, but sharing an authentic picture of your organization will go a long way in building credibility and trust. Be honest about your performance and share how you are going to correct your approach for better results.

3) Be fluid.

If there’s one thing I know about work in nonprofit organizations, it’s that being able to do a quick pivot is frequently what’s required. Make sure your organization has a foundational structure that allows you to be nimble enough to change course when unforeseen circumstances present themselves. They always come. Being equipped to go with plan B means you’ve created an organizational culture that is ready with an appropriate response to any situation!

4) Be a listener.

Being a great listener opens the door to becoming a more effective organization. Listening is more than just being still and not talking. It is a powerful soft skill that increases your understanding and shows a willingness to learn. Interest in the insights of others strengthens connections. It reveals needs, opportunities, threats, identifies solutions, and helps position you to seize advantages you might not otherwise have been aware existed. You must, of course, listen to the people you serve, your investors, and your staff, but also make a habit of listening to the voices of social media, print and broadcast media, and industry peers.

5) Be curious.

Want to set yourself apart? Want to do things you couldn’t have imagined doing? Be curious. Albert Einstein said “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Clearly, his curiosity served him well and had a significant impact on the world! What are other organizations like yours doing? What are the possibilities you haven’t explored? What are the questions you haven’t asked, the views you haven’t considered? Curiosity can open doors to excellence you might never have believed possible. Always be curious!

Above all….

Be about people!

One of our core values at Convergent is to put people first. Take a look at how your organization engages with the community of people it serves and take determined steps into ways of being that support that community.

Here’s to a New Year and to you finding the new ways of being as an organization that make 2020 your best year ever!


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