4 Ways for Nonprofits to Capture the Momentum in 2021

How to chart your path and make the most of every opportunity this year

By Carolina García Jayaram
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2020 was a year of seismic change. A wake up call around the world that exposed areas of neglected focus and much needed recalibration. There’s a new sense of possibility in how we approach solving problems – and that’s creating a sea change in the world of philanthropy.  Foundations and donors have been forced to question how they’re giving – and to consider if they’re working in the most responsive and impactful ways. We are already seeing the difference: Grants are bigger and bolder than ever before, as foundations rethink how they can answer the urgency of now to empower leaders, movements and organizations that are driving meaningful progress. The new year ahead is filled with opportunities. Whether you’re preparing to apply to The Elevate Prize, or looking for other ways to grow and give, this new year invites us to stop, learn, and understand how we can be a part of making the changes we all want to see. 

As we turn the page on a tumultuous year, here are 4 practical ways your organization can set yourself up for success:


1. Be truly Authentic

COVID changed everything about how we work. We’ve seen inside people’s homes and lives. We’ve seen each other as whole people. The impact? People and organizations have the license to show up with greater honesty and transparency than ever before and we believe that by doing so, everyone prospers and thrives. When we’re looking at applications for the Elevate Prize, we’re most excited by leaders and organizations whose solutions to challenges could only have come from them: Insights and ideas rooted in real, lived experience, grounded in deep, personal commitment. Finding success in 2021 will be about having the clarity and confidence to be the most authentic you. Don’t compromise what you stand for to suit other’s criteria. Define your own metrics for success – and blaze a trail that only you and your organization can blaze.


2. Tell the Good Story

Your story is everything. It’s how you connect with key stakeholders, reach new audiences and support your theory of change. After a challenging year, people are hungry for good news and solutions. Let’s give it to them. Get crystal clear on your purpose, and instead of focusing on the problems, show how you’re creating groundbreaking solutions. In our experience, the most effective stories focus on positive impact and problem solving. People want to support success, get behind a confident plan, and champion your progress. Be clear about who you are and what you’re doing and make it easy for people to believe and invest in you. Lean on progress. Why should we be optimistic? What’s the solution? How did you find it? Taking time now to think through and articulate your story will stand you in good stead for applying to The Elevate Prize and other funding opportunities in 2021.


3. Renew Your Values

The world has changed significantly over the last year – making this the ideal time to renew and reconnect with your values. Imagine you’re starting again. Go back and assess them with an eye for relevance and authenticity, then double-down, discard, replace. Make sure everyone in your organization is aligned and committed, and make a plan to ensure your values show up – in how you hire, in how you make programming decisions, in your marketing language and in your social media. Know what matters to you – and let that be the North star of your new year, and beyond.


4. Take Stock of What Worked

2020 changed everything about how we work – erasing the barrier between office and home, bringing life to work and work to life. It also gave many people and organizations the gift of flexibility. Remote work has opened up new recruiting opportunities, unlocking talent pools that might have been inaccessible before. Use this unique moment as a chance to think about how you and your organization works when it’s at its best, most productive and happiest. What’s worked for you in 2020 that you never imagined could? What kind of working “normal” do you hope to return to as the year goes on? Planning now can help you let go of anything holding you back and make positive changes stick.


Ready? We’re excited for you to take 2021 by storm!