I Voted

Advocacy and Adjustment in the Post-Election, New Nonprofit World, Part 1

Immediate-Term Steps Nonprofits Can Take in an Era of Political Transition / Uncertainty.

Every national, state, and local election has the potential to impact communities and the nonprofits that serve them. The difference this year is that impact remains largely unknown. As each segment of the nonprofit sector scrambles to anticipate and interpret the implications of a Trump presidency, nonprofit boards have work to do. But it’s not necessarily the work they think.

In times of uncertainty and economic strain, boards tend to hunker down and wait for the storm to pass. They curtail spending, cut back to their organizations’ core competencies, and sometimes entertain merging with compatible organizations. In many cases, such prudence is justified, but it’s rarely enough and might not be the right strategy this time.

Uncertainty Ahead

To best prepare for what’s ahead, let’s start by understanding the factors in play. With uncertainty about the Supreme Court, tax laws, regulatory and healthcare reform, nonprofit electioneering, and more, the nonprofit sector anxiously awaits information on what’s ahead. Everything from how much spending will be directed toward the provision of human services to what existing laws will be challenged in the courts to how tax laws will alter charitable giving is in question.

Immediate Action

Nonprofit Quarterly, which suggests there are some things nonprofits should do sooner, rather than later:

  1. Develop advocacy strategies and capacities – organizations need to assess their ability to participate in campaigns to advance ideas and initiatives as well as to protect marginalized people. As a first step, however, the board must grasp the importance of advocacy and its role in it, even beyond the parameters of its mission.
  2. Prepare to create fluid and active collaborations – organizations should work across identity groups, causes, and fields “to protect and advance the health, prosperity, and voices of the communities” they serve.
  3.  Engage more with constituents – organizations must keep stakeholders informed and ready to mobilize, so communication must be ongoing and reciprocal.
  4. Remember to do more than turtle up in a protective mode – this final and most critical step requires organizations to embrace the responsibility to “maintain a vision of the communities, nation, and world we all want.”

While especially relevant now, such tips really are universal best practices for nonprofits and their boards. Advocacy, strategic collaboration, communication, and maintaining a vision of the world we want to create all fall within the nonprofit board’s purview. The new political landscape simply reminds us why each function is important.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2: Longer-Term Steps Nonprofits Can Take in an Era of Political Transition / Uncertainty.


Sonia J. Stamm

Sonia J. Stamm is Governance Consultant at BoardEffect. Since almost our inception, she has shared a best practice perspective on governance with our team and clients, partnering to guide boards toward optimal implementation of our software. As founder and principal of a nonprofit leadership consulting firm, Sonia supports the evolution of mission-based organizations through her work in board development, leadership transition and succession, and organizational effectiveness. A seasoned facilitator, trainer, and consultant, she enjoys guiding boards and organizations through critical junctures in their development.