As founder and executive director of a youth development program, I saw fear spread across our organization and the nonprofit sector as the economy faltered in the fall of 2008. Donations slowed to a trickle. How were we going to survive? Would we survive?
Despite the challenges, I knew from experience the safest way forward was to rely on prayer. A certain kind of leadership was needed, one that would help reduce the fear the organization was feeling and yield practical results. I turned to God daily to give me the courage and strength to move forward. I was encouraged by this message from the Bible: “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Tim. 1:7).
We wondered how the generous giving levels that had allowed us to deliver needed literacy, life-skill, and recreational activities to underserved urban youth could possibly continue. While we’d felt that our donors were blessed by the opportunity to help our students, in this dire situation we had to elevate our trust that we’d have the needed funds.
A Bible passage gave me hope: “By an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality” (II Cor. 8:13, 14). And I knew that our organization’s abundance lay in the inherent quality and therefore appeal of our offerings to youth.
Daily we battled to survive, but I found time to take heed of Mary Baker Eddy’s guidance as she echoes the Bible’s instruction, “ ‘[B]e not weary in well doing.’ ” She continues: “If your endeavors are beset by fearful odds, and you receive no present reward, go not back to error, nor become a sluggard in the race.
As we gradually shifted our focus from the fear-inducing economic circumstances to these and other spiritual truths, an inspired three-part, year-long survival plan emerged and took hold. It was understood, accepted, and implemented by all staff members, as well as our board, and consisted of an expense reduction effort and a time-sensitive matching incentive donation plan. It would conclude, 12 months later, with an inspirational and celebratory gala dinner celebrating our 10th anniversary of service. With those milestones in view, we went back to work as a team on a mission.
A year later, when the economic smoke was beginning to clear, we were grateful to have broken even financially and not to have had to reduce our services. Still another year later, our financial reserves were fully replenished and were the highest in the organization’s 10-year history.
While there remain plenty of challenges facing our organization and many others like us, we are grateful to be in business. And I’m more confident and clearer about why we’ve been given the opportunity to go on fulfilling our goals.