When is it Time to Walk Away?

When is it Time to Walk Away?

A difficult experience oftentimes faced in the nonprofit community is the decision to walk away – from a fundraising model, from an outreach approach, or from a volunteer. When is it the right time to change directions?Catch phrases such as “return on investment,” “volunteer engagement,” and “development portfolio diversity” pervade decisions like this, but likely the most important question, while less easy to answer, is what is this worth? Is this funder worth the long hours of emailing back and forth, playing phone tag, and meeting unrealistic expectations? Is this grant worth the extensive application process, follow-up interview, and restricted funds? Is this fundraising strategy practical, given the amount of staff time and effort needed for minimal results? When is it time to take your attention elsewhere?

It can be difficult to start over, especially when policies and strategies can be so entrenched in organizations. But there are two important thoughts that nonprofits need to keep in mind as you come to these conclusions – time and relationships.

Nonprofits never have enough time – so does it make sense to use this precious resource to work on programs that are not effective, with volunteers who are hurting your mission? How much more valuable could your time be if you reallocate it to other outreach efforts, other opportunities, or learning new skills?

Nonprofits are always trying to improve their relationships; why would you sacrifice time and energy from important relationships to your organization? How many nonprofit professionals have felt burnt out due to the difficult relationships they have to manage simply because of an arbitrary goal?

In the end, it comes down to determining your strategy and accomplishing the organization’s mission. How does your organization measure success? Is it just by the total dollars raised? Or is it measured by the impact in your community – an impact that can only be helped by acknowledging your own limitations in trying to do it all and focusing on the effect your decisions have.

It can seem impossible to balance it all, but we urge you to keep your mission in mind when facing these tough decisions – and remember just exactly what your time, energy, and resources are really worth.

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