Be Prepared

February 5, 2019



Written By: Jim Mellor

By Jim Mellor

Like me, you may be hearing a lot of chatter about our economy. We have experienced significant economic prosperity over the past years. Is our economy headed for a slow down? Who knows?

In your role as a not-for-profit, charity, or church leader, rather than debating the “if’s” or the “when’s”, use this time to evaluate the success measures that will help your organization thrive no matter what the economy does.


Step One – Bolster Your Staff Now

Make sure you are staffed properly with the best staff your organization can hire. Having strong, professional, experienced staff is critical, especially in tough times. Who do you want to have in the “life boat” with you when the economy goes south? At the same time, look at your hiring with a critical eye. Are their roles that you might consider NOT filling for the time being, or look for other ways to fill (contract employees or volunteers for example)?


Step Two – Prep Your Finances

Ensure your organization is in the strongest financial position possible before any down turn. If you have debt, make sure it is structured properly. Having adequate cash reserves, up to date insurance coverage, a well-informed fiscal management committee all add a “safety net” to any organization.

Make sure your financial reporting is current, your audit is complete, and that you have addressed any financial “problem” areas. Communicate openly, and often, with your banker, working ahead on any potential issues.


Step Three – Shore Up Your Positioning

Your mission is critical, both in good and bad times. How do people view your organization? Do they understand that your mission is critical too? You don’t want to enter economic uncertainty, with your community thinking the services you provide are just “nice to have.” Remember economic uncertainty impacts people in very real ways. It’s not just a stock market report, it’s lives that are negatively impacted. Position your organization as the organization that makes the critical difference in lives, families, and communities.


Step Four – Turn Up the Heat on Your Capital Campaign

If you are in the midst of a capital effort, now is the time to put the emphasis on completing your fundraising, as well as finalizing construction budgets and contracts. Don’t let the process of securing your community’s financial support go beyond your planned time frame. Position your organization to be the “first in line” with foundations, state and local governments, and key donors to support your organization. Know that construction prices, bridge financing and more can change suddenly if economic conditions change. Nurture relationships with your donors and your partners, communicating with them frequently on your progress.


Step Five – Have a Plan B

If your organization may be negatively impacted by reduced contributed or earned revenue, then the time to think about those issues is now. Create a well-structured plan that addresses how to reduce expenses and how deal with less revenue than you have budgeted.  An alternative budget with 10% less income, tucked away in case of need, is always being well prepared.


Individually, we can’t control the economy, but we can do our best to prepare for any economic uncertainly simply by being good stewards and taking these five basic steps. As the Boy Scouts say: “Be Prepared”.


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4 responses to “Be Prepared”

  1. Norris Lineweaver says:

    Both here in Indianapolis and our colleagues in Jerusalem, both local YMCAs are going through significant key leadership transition as a result of succession planning. Jim, your thoughts on preparing for economic transition could not be more timely. Thank you.

  2. John C Alexander says:

    Thanks for the fine advice and direction, Jim!!

  3. Jim – I agree with you; there is clearly a downturn in our future. I particularly liked your 5th bullet regarding a “Plan B” including a 10% stressed revenue budget. Thanks for reminding us that the economy is NOT a continuum but rather a pendulum.

  4. James Watts says:

    Jim – Your wisdom and expertise have been a immensely helpful to our Joliet YMCA. Thank you so much for sharing this!

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