4 Reasons to Expand (Not Grow) Your Nonprofit or Freelance Consultancy

Just what is the difference between growth and expansion, and why should I think about this half-way through 2020?

One of the best ways I have heard the difference is:

Growth is doing the same thing bigger. Expansion is using the current platform to develop other areas of business.”

However, I’d like for you to think of expanding also as a mindset and as an action.

The way I am talking about expanding here is the opposite of constricting. Think of the theory of relativity. Einstein referred to time being relative and compared thinking of one hour with someone you love and the time goes by quickly, versus sitting on a hot stove for one hour where the time would feel much longer than an hour.

Sure, you may grow your nonprofit or consultancy when you expand, but you also might cut out some programs and streamline your entire organization while you expand. Once again think of expanding as more of a mindset and an action that is the opposite of constricting.

Many nonprofits and consultants have completely come to a frozen stance with the pandemic. The entire thing has overwhelmed you so much that you are stuck in the ‘fright’ phase and are paralyzed with moving forward. The unknown future might have scared you so much that you don’t feel confident in making any decisions. This is the worst thing that you can do because even if you are stagnant right now you have chosen to be stagnant.

Expanding is key. Therefore…

Nonprofit Leaders: This article is for you if:

  • You are not sure where to even start with pivoting your nonprofit in the new normal
  • You do in-person events and fundraisers and now need a different way to get income
  • You are overwhelmed by putting out virtual fires every day instead of focusing on GROWTH for your nonprofit

Freelance Consultants: This is for you if:

  • You aren’t sure if you should close the shop
  • You need to figure out a new way to get clients
  • Your expenses overwhelm your income

So if you want to move forward and expand your nonprofit or your consultancy, but just aren’t sure how to do that, this article is for you. Keep on reading…

Growth vs. Expanding

Sure, we don’t know the future, but in reality, we never really did. We have all heard that before but I don’t think we really believed it before. We’ve all heard (or said), “You could have a heart attack or car accident today and it could be over.’ Sure, there may have been surety of reading more stable trends to predict the future before, but the future was still no guaranteed.

But we still planned. We still mitigated picnic fundraiser events when it rained and came up with alternatives. We still planned for another conference if your flight got delayed or canceled due to an ice storm.

Right now, it is time to expand your mindset, and in turn your organization.

I am going to go over the 4 steps to expansion and what I personally utilized for the nonprofit I serve on and the business that I run.

I am the president of the Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce and throughout the pandemic, we have actually increased our membership during the pandemic. As a 501(c)4, we depend heavily on our membership fees and sponsors for our operating expenses. Right before the pandemic hit, we secured a sponsorship to partially fund the rent of a brick n mortar space for our Women’s Business Center. This center was going to include both co-working and workshop space. Well, we certainly couldn’t utilize the Women’s Business Center during this time.

As a business owner for Grant Writing & Funding, I was preparing to launch a live 10-week course on becoming a Freelance Grant Writer.

Instead of freezing up and waiting to see how things played out, I implemented the following 4 steps of expansion for both the nonprofit and my business. These have led to growth, but growth was not where I started. Remember as I outline this today, I don’t want you to necessarily think about growing your nonprofit our business; i.e. spending more money, but I want you to think of pivoting and expansion.

#1 Figure out how to respond and to provide value

Before we even ‘Figure out how to respond and provide Value,’ a bonus point is to actually meet and have a conversation with a nonprofit, and if you are a freelancer and it’s just you in your business actually set some time aside for planning.

Being at home has disconnected many of us, but I’d like to argue that I’ve actually connected with more people that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Zoom and other platforms have been magical during this time. Of course, the good old phone call is also a super easy thing to do right now, too! So meeting to discuss how to move forward really is number one!

Let’s get on to ‘Figure out how to respond and provide Value.’

For the nonprofit I am with, in order to figure out how to respond to our members (a majority are women small business owners) we conducted a survey. Since then we have done multiple surveys; via Google forms and also Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn polls.

But the initial survey we did was to survey our members and ask them what their challenges were.

  • We asked if they were being laid off, closing down businesses, etc.?
  • What did they need?

What we found was that they desired to have access to funding opportunities and to also have more resources for working from home.

For those who are freelance consultants, let me show you what I have done in my Grant Writing & Funding business. Value has also been the main driver. If you are familiar with my business then you know my mantra is:

“It’s not about making money, it’s about solving problems.”

This has been very true during this time. My first podcast during the pandemic was episode 116: COVID-19 Funding, Grants, & Loans.

In this instance, I didn’t need to survey my listeners or customers because they were emailing me asking for funding and grant information. You all were actually informing me of what you needed. This was super cool. I went and found funding opportunities and published a great episode that provided a lot of value for people to get funding quickly.

This provided us with invaluable information so we could go onto to…

#2 Take Immediate Massive Action

For the nonprofit, once we knew the needs of our members, we started to prepare multiple virtual townhalls, launched a COVID-19 resource page, sent out links to funding opportunities, got super active on highlighting member heroes, and develop industry guidelines and workplace safety posters.

We took massive action. Immediately.

None of this was in our plans and we secured a Zoom account within 24 hours of launching our first virtual town hall.

Our mantra during the pandemic is, How can we quickly get needed resources to our members?

The focus has been on expediency vs. perfection. We understand that one more day without funding or resources could be the difference between a nonprofit or business staying open or shutting down. Plus, resources are being released so rapidly right now that we must stay on top of it.

I had this exact same mindset with my business.

I was hearing from aspiring and new freelance grant writers who weren’t sure what to do with their business. I knew I needed a special episode on this topic and quickly. As I thought about how to provide massive immediate action, I realized I wanted to bring others into the space and conversation. I knew what I was planning on doing, but wasn’t sure what other freelance leaders were doing.

So, I reached out to my good friends and colleagues, Dr. Beverly Browning and Rodney Walker, to be featured on a live panel with me. That way we could field live questions coming in from the audience and give more value immediately.

Once again, this was done quickly and organized within a short period of time (remember speed to market has been an important driver for me throughout this time) and we launched the live, “Freelance Grant Writer Panel: Grant Writing During Covid-19.” Refer to episode 118 and 119 for these two episodes.

Not only did this provide massive value for the people who attended, but Dr. Bev, Rodney, and I were able to increase our mailing lists of our ideal customers by nearly 100 people. This grew our businesses as an indirect result.

So how can you take immediate massive action?

List down all the action steps that you can take now.

What is one thing you can do every day this week to provide value to your donors, to your clients, to your beneficiaries?

Don’t think of all the logistics. Just think what could make the most impact NOW. Do something every single day. Don’t worry about it being perfect. .

But some of you may be asking, How do I take immediate massive action without more funding?

#3 Redirect your Resources

For the nonprofit, we did not grow our nonprofit during this time. In fact, we have not hired any new people or expended more funds. We have simply redirected our efforts. Instead of having our membership committee work on regular membership meetings, which were not happening at the time, they redirected towards other items we identified that were needed. The government committee redirected their efforts to advocate for new bills that impacted our membership.

Remember our brick n mortar Women’s Business Center has not been a resource we can pull from right now. But it is something we still promote. On the virtual town halls, we realized we can provide value for our sponsors by having these virtual townhalls provided by our main sponsors. This has been very valuable to keep these long-term relationships and redirect their support of our nonprofit.

Are you doing that at this time?

For my business, I had to look at what do I have available now?

Well, if you go back to my original plan of launching a 10-week virtual live course, logistically I could have still held it. But this was back in April when focus and dedicating to a weekly time wasn’t in the cards for many people. Even though they were at home, they were transitioning their kids to schooling online and their focus was on specific COVID information.

Instead, I decided to give a 50% discount on my Freelance Grant Writing Master Course and eliminate the virtual live interaction, making it a complete DIY course. I knew people still needed it, but doing it on their own time would make more sense during this time. I also provided 50% off all my online Master courses. I knew people were scared of investing, but also that my courses would provide massive value in helping people learn how to write grants, open businesses if they were laid off from their jobs, or conduct much-needed strategic planning.

So I pulled in the resources I had already developed.

In order to really expand, it is important for you to look at what existing resources you can pull from.

Do you have staff that are working from home right now, but don’t really have work to do as they do more in-person types of work like cleaning, caring for children, etc.? Are there tasks that they can do instead?

List down what your existing resources are, and put them into an excel sheet to see how types of resources you have.

#4 Leverage your Partners

Maybe you just racked your brain and said, “We don’t have a lot of other resources.” Well, what about your partners, donors, sponsors, and others? Can you leverage them right now?

One of the partners of our chamber is the Small Business Development Center. Right now, we do not have to do all the training for business, as they already do this. We can promote what they doing to our membership and this gives our members value. We have also partnered with other Chambers of Commerce and agencies to really move forward.

In fact, we just recently partnered with Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a huge national nonprofit organization that is now providing resources to our members in Guam. This is just one of many examples of relationships that we have built during the pandemic and are leveraging resources that give value to our members.

For my business, I leveraged Dr. Beverly Browning and Rodney Walker for the Freelance Grant Writer Live Panel.

I have also leveraged other experts on the podcast. Brady Josephson was amazing on discussing how to embrace online fundraising in episode 120. He specifically gives you all an amazing resource on a webpage that tracks the types of emails that nonprofits have been sending during the pandemic. This is super valuable as you can go to this webpage and get ideas of what nonprofits are doing!

I also had branding expert Jenni Hargrove come on the podcast in episode 122 to discuss how to do an online silent auction and how to get your website to come up on the first page of Google to attract more donors.

For the freelancers, I am doing an Open Kimono series. This episode is an example of the series as I keep going behind the scenes to show you what I am doing on the nonprofit I am on and for my business.

By focusing on expanding vs. growth during this time, I have indirectly grown members and funding for the nonprofit I serve on, as well as have grown my email list and increased my revenue more in April than all of last year combined.

I have done this through the four steps of how expansion is different than growth.

  • #1 Figure out how to respond and to provide value
  • #2 Take Immediate Massive Action
  • #3 Redirect your Resources
  • #4 Leverage your Partners

Next week, we will continue this conversation on expansion. We are going to hack into this even more by giving you more examples and resources on how to streamline or cut while expanding. Once again this is not constricting where you freeze. It is a conscious effort on reprioritizing. And, yes, growth might be a result of expanding, but it’s not the driver.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please leave a review on iTunes! I’d love to hear from you!  And if you loved it, please also share it!

List of Links Discussed in This Article:

  1. Growth Vs. Expansion
  2. Freelance Grant Writing Wisdom with Dr. Beverly Browning
  3. How to Learn From Your Mistakes While Growing Your Freelance Grant Writing Business with Rodney Walker
  4. Ep 118: Freelance Grant Writer Panel: Grant Writing During COVID-19
  5. Ep 119: Bonus Q&A Freelance Grant Writer Panel: Grant Writing During COVID-19
  6. Local Initiatives Support Corporation
  7. Ep 120: How to Embrace Online Fundraising with Brady Josephson
  8. Ep 122: Nonprofits Who Get Tech Savvy Earn More with Jenni Hargrove


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