Facing rising inflation and a number of challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, North Texas nonprofits are seeking new ways to drive donations and revenue. 

Experts say nonprofit leaders must look inward to improve staff morale and create development models to efficiently increase donor dollars. 

Nonprofit organizations need to make sure they are focused on the people who work there as much as they are on the mission, said Laura Hutyra, senior director of consulting services at M. Gale and Associates, a nonprofit consulting firm located at 3000 Race St. in Fort Worth. 

The U.S. nonprofit sector employs the third-largest workforce of any U.S. industry. The Texas nonprofit sector employs over 500,000 employees as of January 2020. 

“Creating a healthy workplace is culture and recognizing the needs, wants and feelings from employees can help them engage and perform more effectively,” said Dr. Monica Zhan, who teaches courses in the philanthropy program as a professor at University of Texas at Arlington. 

An extensive study completed by the University of Oxford found that workers are 13% more productive when they are happy. The happier employees did not work more hours than disconnected colleagues – they were just more productive with their time at work, according to researchers

With rising inflation and increase in demands for services, nonprofit organizations need to remember that their employees also face these stressors outside of the workplace, Zhan said. 

“A major stress for the general population is inflation, along with other crises we’re seeing today,” Zhan said. “Nonprofits need to find ways to address this stressor, other than just raising the salary.”

Giving employees time off, communicating employee efforts to board members and asking employees how they would like to be supported are all ways that nonprofits can better support their workers, said Christina Judge, manager of business development at M. Gale and Associates. 

“It’s not just the nonprofit mission that keeps people forever – they have to be incentivized by the atmosphere, the culture along with the appropriate salary,” Hutyra said.

When nonprofits are looking to hire new employees, it’s important to revise staffing plans to clarify expectations for potential hires, Judge said.

“Being able to look at each function, evaluate what is expected and what the output of the position is important to look at the true return on investment,” Judge said. “You want to make sure you are hiring someone who is actively looking for a nonprofit job.” 

A sustainable staffing model is important to keep up with service demand, and certain positions are crucial parts of the model. The nonprofit should have a full-time dedicated grant writer, Judge said. 

“When I worked in welfare, I was a one-person shop for several years,” she said. “I wrote about three grants a week, and it took up about 75% of (my) time.” 

Grant writing requires several skills to write a persuasive application and take the appropriate steps to receive funding. It takes about one full-time fundraising employee to raise about $500,000, according to a fundraising staff survey completed by the Pierce Family Foundation.

A nonprofit should have a development director and a development coordinator, Judge added. The development director oversees all internal operations and higher level gifts while the coordinator focuses on outreach events.

“Every nonprofit is different in size and needs,” Hutyra said. “The main focus is that someone should solely work on fundraising – every nonprofit board needs to recognize that differentiation between fundraising and operations positions and have dedicated staff.” 

How a strategic plan helped a Tarrant County nonprofit

Lyn Scott, executive director of Guardianship Services, sought the help of M. Gale and Associates in 2019 to refocus its fundraising plan.

Guardianship Services supports at-risk adults in the community who have been placed into guardianship through the Tarrant County Probate Court system. The organization offers a guardian for individuals who have been determined to be incapaciated. The guardian steps in to help make decisions for the person’s best interest when no one else in their life can help, Scott said.

“We have flown under the radar for many years, the people who need to know about us do, but a great number of people don’t,” Scott said. “We worked with them (M. Gale and Associates) to increase awareness and develop a new individual giving plan.” 

In 2021, Guardianship Services and M. Gale created a three-year strategic development plan to expand fundraising efforts and included the hiring of a full-time volunteer coordinator with a federal grant, Scott said. 

Strategic plans help nonprofits achieve success by concentrating on goals and missions, setting measurable goals, increasing understanding of responsibilities, producing realistic action plans and track progress.

With their plan, Guardianship Services created an Advocate Circle: a specialized newsletter for donors who give more than $1,000 per year. The newsletter creates more reliable streams of annual income and provides extra information about how donations are helping real people, Scott said. 

The Advocate Circle has been active for two years. By the end of the strategic plan next year, Scott hopes to have 100 advocate members. 

The three-year plan included the creation of a case statement, which Guardianship Services presents to potential donors that clearly states their mission and values. 

A nonprofit’s mission is its most important tool. Without a clear mission, supporters could lose sight of why they are donating and find another nonprofit with clearer objectives, according to donorbox.org.

“We created a new foundation and we now have a written plan that we don’t really deviate from,” Scott said. “We know where we are and now we know where we need to go.” 

Izzy Acheson is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Reach her at izzy.acheson@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Izzy Acheson

Izzy Acheson is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, she graduated from Texas Christian University in 2022 with a double major in journalism and environmental...