There’s one thing you can do that could both strengthen your giving portfolio and strengthen the charities and nonprofits you love. You could support a catalyzing organization and connect your favorite organizations to them.
Many catalyzers have the tools to strengthen organizational fiscal management, while at the same time fostering sound storytelling. By catalyzers, we mean accelerators, public-relations and storytelling firms, marketing firms, and financial education firms, many of whom are nonprofits themselves and serve nonprofits.
These organizations build capacity into the organizations they serve and, by doing so, catalyze young or emerging organizations into new places of maturation, sophistication, and establishment.
Some of these catalyzer organizations may be familiar to you – organizations like Praxis, based in New York City. Praxis is an accelerator of “redemptive entrepreneurship” both in nonprofit and for-profit organizations. The organization supports founders through high-touch programming, robust content, and an extensive network of mentors and funders. Similar models can be found throughout the country, like Entrenuity in Chicago or OCEAN programs in Cincinnati, to name a few.
There are more of these kinds of organizations.
Let’s look at the three reasons why you should consider investing in a catalyzer.
1. You will grow the appeal of the organizations you love
Larger, more institutional organizations – organizations with a broad follower base, economies of scale, and sophisticated processes – got to that place because they did the internal, soul-searching work necessary to build sustainable, highly resilient organizations. Who was their guide in this work? Often a catalyzer. Delving into the content and teaching what catalyzers offer, you will almost always find that they ask (or re-ask) organizational leaders seemingly rudimentary questions questions like:
- What good are you looking to increase in your community?
- Who is your community? Who are you called to serve, and how do you define them?
- Of all the ways you might serve this community, what are the best, most effective ways?
- What resources will you need to accomplish this service, and how do you organize those resources?
These questions can be tough to answer and/or the answers can be easy to lose sight of when you’re in the “weeds” of programmatic work. However, the clarity that comes from the answers to these questions (and more) leads to considering a compelling story or case for existence that, coupled with a honed stakeholder analysis and active cultivation, is essential for recruiting additional funders to support the organization.
That’s what you want, right? You want your favorite organizations to gain the appeal of others, who see the genius and impact that you see. Catalyzers catapult young organizations into resiliency and, hopefully, even increase their capacity to expand their work.
2. You will build into the foundational lumbar required for long-term resiliency
Not only does investment in establishing an organization well lead to a clear, concise, and compelling story that attracts others, but investing in the underpinnings of an organization is required for long-term sustainability.
An organization with crystal clarity on why they do what they do and who they are designed to serve, as well as growing followership, will routinely pass a stress test. Who checks and bolsters the internal support beams of your favorite organizations? Catalyzers do. Catalyzing organizations have an arsenal of tools to focus or refocus organizations on fundamentals and best practices.
Catalyzers effect foundational change in those they serve by fundamentally (re)shaping how leadership thinks through risk, decision making, and how they share their story with others.
I felt so strongly about the importance of storytelling for organizations that I founded one of them myself. Our purpose is to help organizations define their impact, map every aspect of their organizational life (including programs, processes and procedures) toward those impact goals. Similarly, StratOp Paterson Center helps organizations figure out where they’re going by looking at where they are now and how they got there. The perspective gained by first looking back helps organizations deploy resources in a way that’s authentic to the lessons they’ve learned and the fabric of who they are.
COVID-19 hit us hard, and we are still trying to recover. But, as leaders, we need to be preparing for the next calamity by investing in the catalyzing work that can mature and fortify our favorite organizations to thrive, should another such devastating time come.
3. Your investment will have a multiplying effect
Catalyzing organizations serve multiple other organizations and causes at one time. Contributing to them means that you’re contributing to multiple entities at one time.
In supporting a catalyzer you have opportunity to catapult a community of organizations into a stronger, more resilient space. Your initial investment, philanthropic or otherwise, in one catalyzing group can impact a whole chain-link of nonprofits that will be fiscally fortified for post-COVID norms and for the next storm.
Moreover, connecting nonprofits that you support to these catalyzers bolsters them in the ways mentioned, and also provides them with peer support that you cannot offer them any other way. Catalyzers often offer both subject matter expertise to their clients as well as peer-to-peer mentorship – two sets of value feedback loops designed to sharpen organizations like the ones you support.
We need catalyzers now, more than ever. We need them to birth and support a whole new crop of emergent organizations that are resilient in the face of the next calamity.