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Connecting Local Work to Global Goals

By definition, most nonprofits are small (99% have fewer than 500 employees) and many are very small (median staff size is four employees). A small organization’s work is sometimes seen as tied to local or regional circumstances and measure its impact in similar terms. 

That just might be missing the big picture.

The programs a local nonprofit carries out very likely contribute to the United Nations (U.N.) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). “End poverty in all its forms everywhere” is Goal #1. It would be hard to imagine local anti-poverty work NOT contributing to “all forms” or “everywhere.” 

Goal #4 calls for “inclusive and equitable quality education.” If your nonprofit works to improve classroom experiences, deliver afterschool opportunities, eliminate disparities and close gaps,” said Thomas Boyd, chief editorial consultant for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif., “You are addressing that goal.”

To round out (and summarize) the SDGs: end hunger; ensure healthy lives; reach gender equality; deliver clean water; develop clean energy; create equitable and sustainable employment; build a stable infrastructure; reduce inequalities; make cities better; generate sustainable and responsible consumption; save the planet; find a durable peace; and, create effective partnerships to get it all done.

Why should you think about your nonprofit and a connection to SDGs? Here are three good reasons. 

  • One: It’s a helpful psychological counterweight to the occasional pessimism that feels like “does this really matter, is it worth it?” 
  • Second: It’s making common cause with bigger, more prominent nonprofits — you’re in the game with them, allied with them, partnered with them.
  • Third: It matters because it strengthens your case with a lot of prospective funders. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the Council on Foundations, Candid and other foundation observers agree that philanthropy will move faster to engage with SDGs in the coming years. The U.N. set 2030 as the target for many of the goals. It is estimated that foundations will put $360 billion to work to achieve those goals.

It won’t be enough to simply say you’re addressing the SDGs. You’ll still have to demonstrate your impact in your target community. But it might be a good idea to show how your success contributes to the global drive for a better world. 

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