Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Time to Focus

The economy seems to be entering a season of high anxiety. Though the problems have mostly been limited to Wall Street and residential real estate up to this point, it may hit Main Street harder in the near future. Indeed, many non-profit organizations are beginning to see a dramatic decline in monetary donations, though some thrift store type organizations are actually seeing a counter-cyclical increase in sales. So what does this mean for faith ventures, businesses that seek to use profits to serve individuals or communities rebuilding lives from addiction, prison, homelessness or poverty? I think there are a couple of key points to remember:

A recession leads to more individuals needing job training and communities needing assistance
An economic downturn tends to hit unskilled workers first. Individuals with felony convictions or others issues related to poverty are usually the first to go. In addition, the steady flow of offenders leaving the prison system will find it harder to secure employment. There will be a need for more faith ventures in the near future to serve felons and poor communities being hit by the slowdown.

It’s harder to obtain resources
At the same time that needs are increasing, organizations will find it more difficult to find resources. As noted above, donations to non-profits are already down. Traditional thrift stores are seeing a decline in product donations. For-profits are discovering that investors are more cautious of investments.

Cash is king
Non-profit faith ventures already find it hard to get bank loans. Now, for-profit businesses are seeing credit dry up from banks. It’s important to work to increase your cash position at once.

Faith ventures should focus on the basics
Now is the time to strengthen your organization by cutting unnecessary costs and improving your overall efficiency. Focus on your mission and cut out extraneous activities. Seek creative low cost ways to tell your story. And work hard to cultivate new relationships and build stronger existing relationships.

Seek Partnerships
When times are good, it’s easy to expand your activities beyond your basic mission. An economic downturn can be an excellent time of refocusing on what your organization does. Focus your activities on your core mission and look for partnership with other organizations to fill in other services. I find that now is an excellent time to collaborate with local government agencies. Local workforce centers and TANF offices are developing creative programs that might provide program participants and resources for your organization.

Look for opportunities to grow
Even in the midst of economic difficulties, keep your eyes open for new opportunities. Challenges can be an excellent chance to think creatively and position your organization for the future. An innovative new approach or partnership will find an environment ripe with clients in need.

Trust God
Once again, we have to put the faith in faith venture. God passionately loves the poor. We need to have faith in God to provide the resources for a business as ministry that serves disadvantaged communities.

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