When to walk away

Once you have diagnosed and triaged your nonprofit’s issues, allow the nonprofit to say no.

Hesitation about the project

They may now realize that they have other priorities.  If they are transitioning between stages in the life cycle, perhaps they should focus on fixing their more foundational needs, before marketing and fundraising.

Hesitation about you

It is nearly impossible for a non-profit to fire a volunteer.  It is awkward to manage a volunteer who means well but is not adding value.

Project is overwhelming

Divide it up into clear stages.  Otherwise, the project will get bogged down and you will not get what you need.


Walk away before you get started.  At least, you can feel good that you have given them a plan to implement.

Not right for you

If you don’t have the resources, knowledge or time to commit, admit it now.  Here is a typical example.  There are two sides to marketing – the creative side and the analytical side.  Some marketers feel more comfortable on the creative side (designing brochures).  But if you discover, after your diagnosis, that the nonprofit needs help on the analytical side (crunching revenue numbers or calculating donor churn), admit it now and find another volunteer to join.

No project manager assigned

A staff person has to act as the keeper of the project and the timetable.  If this doesn’t happen, its a strong signal to walk away.