Hello and welcome to Mission Multiplier. I’m Jane Pfeiffer, founder and president of Fieldtrip. We’re a marketing and branding firm that helps nonprofits reduce their largest expense. It’s the cost of IDKs. Now IDKs don’t live on the balance sheet. In fact, you’ve never seen a line item for them. IDKs are the “I don’t knows” that live in the minds of your potential clients, your potential supporters, donors, community partners and those IDKs are actually measured in the cost of lost opportunities. When we reduce those lost costs, then we’re creating a mission multiplier. A recession is coming and perhaps it’s already here. How bad can it get? How long will it last and how will it differ from past recessions and what can we do now to weather this storm? Well, not everyone has a choice in how to prepare or survive a recession, but it will happen in our lifetimes and probably sooner rather than later. As business leaders, we can’t afford to think that it’s somebody else’s problems. Perhaps we’re just not ready to yet admit that the choice is ours to make. No one is asking for a recession, to tighten wallets, to wreck organizational plans or fuel inflation. We can blame COVID. We can blame supply chain inflation. Your least favorite political party or, a popular choice is to blame the president. It’s easier to avoid responsibility when the finger is pointed elsewhere. And perhaps that can be a good thing, because if you’re pointing the finger at someone else, you can get the guilt out of the way. But you still have the responsibility to prepare for what’s ahead and to protect those you serve, support and work with. There’s a couple of options in how you can do that. I define these as revolt, reinvent, rebound and recover.
First is revolt. Now don’t be an idiot or be blind. You have to be fiscally responsive or responsible, but you don’t need to feed the recession. I often wonder how much of our economic woes are caused by media attention and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. What could we create if we just refused to feed that narrative? And so my one small act of revolution is simply not to talk about it. Now I’m doing that today, but outside of this educational piece, I’m really not focusing on that. Yes, there will be tighter times ahead and we always need to be prepared. But I refuse to feed into that negative loop of “it’s coming, it’s doing.” In fact, we’re doubling down and investing in things that we think will help get us through that. We’re making those decisions now. We’re investing in custom research that will help our nonprofit clients understand how to better engage their potential supporters with the clients that they serve, especially when there’s such a gap between lives and perspectives in health and social services.
The second option is to reinvent. At Fieldtrip in 2022, we really defined who we were and what we were going to be. As we continued to grow and evolved, we decided to focus on what is most meaningful and what we do best because we were given the opportunity to do so. It’s a good thing we did. Changing course when things were uncertain is scary, but staying the course can often lead you into a worse storm. For example, this agency was founded in part by servicing retail furniture stores, licensees across the country. Retail furniture was our gig for years and the bulk of the business. It was gangbusters year during COVID as people were working remotely, investing in their homes because that’s where they were going to be living. Then there was the housing boom, everybody’s moving up again. More furniture, more mattresses. Business was great. Imagine what’s going to happen to retail furniture, what’s been happening this year, even starting as late as 2021. Thankfully, we’re not in that business anymore and we’ve avoided that storm. I would much rather take the storm that we’re facing than what would have come our way if we had just stayed steady.
Thirdly, Rebound. Not at the end, but at incremental points throughout the downturn. Do it quickly, be decisive and have the tough conversations that you can early, push key decisions now, talk to large corporate sponsors about their continuation in their financial planning. If there is going to be bad news, get it sooner rather than later so that you have more time and more runway to deal with it. Again, as an example, at Field Trip, we are testing programmatic solutions for nonprofits to work in addition to our custom programs and offerings. This will allow a lower price point and open us up to more nonprofits, and that’s a good thing. We’re getting that ready now.
Finally, if those three steps don’t work, then you’re left with no choice but to recover. If you revolt, reinvent and rebound, hopefully you avoid or lessen the need to recover. It will come with some need to recover because things will be different and you have to lead to survive and to strengthen your organization during uncertain times. I’m really not even going to give an example of how I will be recovering Fieldtrip at the end of the recession because I’m going to invest in the first three options, first and foremost. In the words of my favorite hero, “Do or do not, there is no try.” (Thank you Yoda). I hope that you lean in and try and get ahead of the storm and hopefully avoid it completely and don’t have that need for recovery. Thanks for reading. Get more videos at wearefieldtrip.com/nonprofits