Celebrate the Wins

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on April 23rd, 2020 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Growing up in Washington, DC, I never had a sense of “community” – just neighborhoods and “the city.”  When I was introduced to the concept of a community foundation, however, I immediately got it:  a group of people – a community – that gives money to support that community.  I’ve been a fan of community ever since.

Over the decades, and more recently of late, I’ve listened to and read about the marketing efforts of community banks as they compete with the big mahoffs of the banking industry.  These community banks – small, locally based and staffed – share the same commitment as community foundations:  using local dollars and people to serve those of the community.  

So I was delighted to learn that Nonprofit Quarterly’s findings aligned with my anecdotal findings about community.  It seems that nonprofits that have actually been approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan were more likely to have worked with a local, community-based bank.  While the stories are that the mega banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo played to the larger nonprofits and the Ruth’s Chrises of the world (thereby increasing their own profits), and abide by the rules the program promised of first come, first served, the community banks did while also supporting the members of their communities.  

Of the dozens and dozens of nonprofits with which I have spoken who applied to the PPP, thus far I have heard of only six that have been approved—and not one comes anywhere near being classified as even medium-sized, let alone large.  All but one worked with a community bank.  I know I keep harping on the lessons we are learning during this period of crisis and the importance of remembering them and acting on them once we have come out the other side, and this one is a goodie.  Maybe we should be as careful and thoughtful, and seek mission alignment, in looking for our for-profit partners/vendors as we are in looking for our nonprofit partners.  And maybe we should make community banks honorary nonprofits. 

A second round of stimulus dollars is coming, and with it another opportunity for many to get much needed financial help.  Some more nonprofits will feel as if they won the lottery, while still others will, yet again and sadly so, still not.  For those of you who are successful in getting that loan, congratulations.  

Despite all of the people with whom I have spoken, I have not found many who have come out winners.   But two are suffering what can only be described as survivor’s guilt:  “Why did we get it and organization X  did not?”…yes, our mission is important, but X’s mission is more important right now.”  

I have spoken with others who are hiding their disappointment of not getting PPP dollars so they don’t rain on the parades of peers and board members celebrating receipt of those dollars for their nonprofits and for-profits.  While I cannot, of course, tell people how they should and shouldn’t feel, let’s get it straight:  nonprofits receiving PPP dollars was very much about luck, pure and simple.  There aren’t more or less deserving organizations in this system, not some who “earned” it more than others.  This was a crap shoot. 

Let’s face it:   luck plays a role in all of our fundraising efforts.  (Oh, don’t cringe fundraising experts; luck doesn’t deny hard work, any more than hard work denies luck.)  Does organization A get to funder B before organization  C?  Does foundation D change funding priorities to support organization E while no longer supporting organization F?  Yet, I have never had anyone tell me that s/he was feeling guilty because Funder B gave money to her/his org and not org C.  So why now?

Not only can we can celebrate the wins while giving support to those who feel they lost, we must.  Our sector is only as strong as its individual parts.  And every one of our individual parts needs as much love as we have to give.

The opinions expressed in Nonprofit University Blog are those of writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of La Salle University or any other institution or individual.