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Transitions breed uncertainty: nonprofit leadership needs to be ready and reactive.

Forget the $50 pillow made in the U.S.A. and the square, [section]20 copper and ceramic nonstick pan that can be used on a stovetop and in the oven.

If the nonprofit sector was being sold via a 3 a.m. infomercial it would be described as the best plastic wrap money can buy. It could be pitched as the most indispensable item in a busy kitchen. It is see-through. It stretches--sometimes beyond reason. It keeps everything in a bowl safe, even if the bowl is turned over. It's also reusable and a lot less expensive than containers that come with lids that can't be adjusted to safeguard overflowing crockery.

With the election over, nonprofit leaders must impress upon the new federal administration that the transparency, flexibility, economy and indispensability of the charitable sector is vital to the nation's financial kitchen.

There will be new sheriffs in Washington, D.C. come January 20th, as there are every four or eight years. Even when there is a two-term president, key inside contacts come and go. Leaders of the charitable sector are and should be in constant education mode. There is also change in both chambers of Congress and those staff members will need to be educated about the nonprofit world.

It should be nonstop in the nation's capital. This education should be on every level of government. Executives should let elected officials know the concerns of the citizenry and help to map a plan for dealing with sometimes intractable, intergenerational issues. Leaders should let it be known that the sector cannot and will not be sliced and diced like a tomato with a Ronco Veg-O-Matic. (Yes, you can still buy that little gizmo.)

Nonprofit work was in every community in the nation long before lobbyists pushed the sector's interest in the halls of Congress, along K Street and over in the cottage on Pennsylvania Avenue. Communicating and collaborating was done long before it was labeled as such and put into a management lexicon. Those activities need to be ratcheted up.

Communication with donors and stakeholders will be more important as governmental priorities shift, possibly placing more burden on charitable operations. Keeping service providers and consumers of those services in the loop is a priority.

On a national level, all stops must be pulled out to ensure the Johnson Amendment limiting electioneering and prohibiting endorsement of candidates by nonprofits remains intact. Likewise, the charitable deduction must be preserved. The sector must work with everyone. And while not taking sides can be considered a quaint throwback for the sector, transition is precisely the time when neutrality of person, not of ideas, would be key to positive movement.

When all avenues of compromise and education are blocked, remember the sector's issues muscle. The nonprofit world is a trillion-dollar element of American society. The sector has treated donors, investments and fees for service as a muscle-building AB Rocket. Leaders should not be shy about showing off those washboard bank accounts when it comes to making a point that elected officials will remember.

Most important, nonprofit executives must remain calm about the transition, until it is no longer possible. At that point it will be time to implement the furry of a Nutri Ninja, leaving no doubt that the needs of people cannot be ignored or legislated out of existence. Nonprofits are the nation's most effective transparent, flexible plastic wrap and sector leaders need to make that clear. Sector leadership cannot tolerate overflowing crockery.
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Author:Clolery, Paul
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Date:Dec 1, 2016
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