The results of last week’s U.S. election are not what many of us expected. I have been so impressed with how quickly and appropriately many of you have responded to the election results. The communications to your staff and your donors that have been thoughtful and forward leaning. Some of you may still be trying to get your feet under you, to pivot, and to figure out the next steps.
I want you to know that TREC is here to support you. Please ask for what you need. Please contact the TREC staffer that you have been working with most closely, or me.
You know your situation, and not everyone has been dealt the same hand. We will be playing defense at the U.S. federal level for sure, but some of you have new opportunities at the state and local level. Our Canadian colleagues are operating in a more positive political environment, but are bracing themselves for a reverberating impact. Many of you are working on updating your Strategic Plans. Here are some next steps that you may want to consider, and, remember, TREC is here to assist you:
1. Playing Defense. We’ve been working against gridlock at a U.S. federal level for so long. For many of you, it has been your whole conservation career. As a result of the elections, the Republicans will have the House, Senate, and Presidency, we can expect the gridlock to break, and not to our advantage. Expect movement. You will need to be ready with defensive tactics.
2. Going Local and Developing Collaborative Strategies. In some cases, we have new opportunities for action at the local and state level. Certainly, all of us have the ability to build a stronger base and develop new allies. There is no time like the present for creative, inclusive, collaborative work. For those of you who are currently engaged in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work, the timing couldn’t be better.
3. Bringing Your Team Together. Listen to each other, and support one another. As leaders, it’s okay to be vulnerable. Meet folks where they are, but don’t get stuck in mutual despair. Help your team see the long view. I know many of you have staff, Board, and volunteers spread out in different locations, and you may not have been in the same place to talk this over. That’s been true for us at TREC. But there are other ways to connect, conference calls, email discussions, and getting together in sub-groups. In the coming months, as you revisit your Strategic Plans, be sure to get input from your whole team because that’s how you do your best innovating.
4. Changing Fundraising Messages. It’s a small silver lining, but keep in mind that having an opponent is good for fundraising. You’ll likely need to pivot your language in your appeals to take full advantage of this. Some of you may be able to move on this now, just based on the anticipated threat. Others of you, depending on where you work and how you position yourselves, may need to start with a more measured reaction, at least initially.
5. Preparing for Opposition. Any time we have a conservative government we have to be prepared for potential challenges to nonprofits. Make sure your house is in order. Filings are done on time. Insurance is up-to-date. Bylaws are in order. Board meeting minutes are clean. If you feel you need an outside expert opinion on your current practices, including those relating to your physical safety, please let me know.
6. Preparing for Tough Economic Times. The stock market has responded positively so far, but many economists think tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations will cause another recession so please be prepared. Build your financial reserves so that you have at least three to six months of operating money available. Look to diversify your fundraising. If you are currently grant dependent, expand the number of foundations in your fundraising plan, and reach out to more major donors. Remember that foundation giving is directly tied to stock market performance. Foundations can be fiscally conservative, getting cautious quickly. Some foundations may step up in tough times too, of course, and they’ll want to fund groups that are quickly pivoting to appropriate strategies.
Let us know how we can help. We’re in this together. As you develop new strategies and make progress, share your successes so we can all learn from each other. You are just the leaders and organizations that we need to survive and thrive through these troubled times. Thank you for everything that you do.