Managing Through Tough Times

Nonprofits face and overcome hurdles every day, but unexpected or severe challenges can require new approaches. Below you’ll find resources for nonprofits and funders to help deal with, learn from, and grow beyond tough times


Nonprofits, Funders, and COVID-19

This special collection of resources offers nonprofits, funders, and impact investors guidance on confronting the immediate demands of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as well as its longer-term economic and societal consequences. Go to the special collection >>

Eight Steps for Managing Through Tough Times

At some point, all nonprofits face their own version of "tough times." Maybe it's a sector-wide challenge, like a recession, a shock distinctive to the fields or locations a nonprofit serves, or an organization-specific hardship, such as the loss of a major funder’s support. No matter the cause, tough times force hard choices. We offer eight steps that can help nonprofits weather economic uncertainty. In truth, these practices can help any organization stay in shape any time.

Also in this update:

A Tough Times Call to Action for Funders: Be Even More Attentive to Leaders of Color
How Funders Can Avoid Inadvertently Triggering Tough Times

Case Study: Pressley Ridge

When the Family First Prevention Services Act passed in 2018, it provided momentum for some of Pressley Ridge’s services while squeezing funding for other facets of the nonprofit’s work. Here’s how this child-welfare organization navigated the changing landscape.
Case Study: Pressley RidgeImage Photo: Pressley Ridge

Case Study: Prosperity Now

Prosperity Now had prepared scenario plans to deploy should “routine” financial stresses emerge. But that mattered little when the political climate changed. Facing a $1 million deficit going into the 2018 fiscal year, and with federal contracts continuing to decline, the nonprofit created a four-pronged approach to financial sustainability.
Case Study: Prosperity Now Image Photo: Prosperity Now

Related Resources

This collection of evergreen resources shares information and approaches for managing an organization during tough economic times.

From Bridgespan

External resources

  • Nonprofit Finance Fund’s State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey: These survey findings are a widely cited barometer of US nonprofits' programmatic, operational, and financial health. (2018)
  • Open Road Alliance's 2017 Roadblock Analysis Report: The Open Road Alliance offers short-term loans and grants to nonprofits facing unexpected financial hardships that threaten impact. This study captures the reasons applicants reach out for its support. Funder-created obstacles top the list. (2018)
  • Race Matters Institute’s Racial Equity Impact Analysis: Decisions around “what matters most” during difficult times must be viewed through a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens, to ensure that a variety of identities and viewpoints contribute to an organization’s vision and work. This tool includes five racial equity questions for weighing policy and personnel decisions.
  • Fundraising in Tough Times: This article explores what fundraisers can do to help minimize the impact of a difficult period on their organizations. (Mal Warwick, Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2009)