Event Life: Not-for-Profit Solutions
When businesses are hit, so are not-for-profits. But this economy can be an opportunity, tooby Rene A. Fesler | Published in September 2009 Event Life | non-profits | Departments
When businesses are hit, so are not-for-profits. But this economy can be an opportunity, too
Though the news these days tends to focus on Wall Street’s economic challenges, the difficulties the country faces are just as evident in the world of not-for-profits. The philanthropic side of business has become a casualty of the recession that threatens many charities’ existence. With less discretionary spending, philanthropic giving has fallen to the bottom of the list for many donors and corporate sponsors. What once seemed like an endless spring of available funding with the tech boom and soaring Wall Street profits has now slowed to a trickle. What does this mean for the future of not-for-profits and the many causes this money once supported? How do not-for-profits continue with their missions when their source of funding is jeopardized?
First, not-for-profits must look within themselves to ensure they operate efficiently. Waste seeps into every company, and the nonprofit sector isn’t immune. Analyze operational expenses to find ways to cut costs.
Overstaffing can be a problem and a major expense, so ensure that each position is clearly defined and evaluated for any overlapping duties. Consolidating positions, offering job sharing and cutting hours are other ways to help with the major expense of salaries.
Not-for-profits must also utilize their board of directors and volunteers. People associated with the group already know its mission and are committed to helping. It’s up to the not-for-profit to meet the charity’s needs from within these ranks.
Reaching out to volunteers can also help reduce costs. A great resource for securing volunteers is VolunteerMatch (volunteermatch.org), a free online service allowing nonprofits to post volunteer opportunities. New volunteers bring new ideas, resources and contacts, keeping the not-for-profit from stagnating. When times are difficult, it’s easy for the volunteer base to dry up, making the volunteer pool’s growth a crucial component of survival.
Partnering with other nonprofits is another way to be smart about expenses — for example, share expenses such as supplies, promotional items and printing services. By teaming up with other groups, you can secure discounted pricing and preferred rates due to larger orders. Even though many of these services are customized to each charity, many vendors will charge a one-time fee for the set-up of artwork and pass the volume discount on to the nonprofits. Smaller nonprofits can get the leverage they need to negotiate better pricing by joining forces with others. Through this type of partnering and negotiation, smaller nonprofits can position themselves more securely by sharing resources.
Not-for-profits can also use today’s economy as inspiration to explore different types of sponsorship opportunities. Rather than monetary donations, companies may be able to offer products, services or personnel to meet the charity’s needs, while still reaping the benefits of charitable giving. Aim to find common ground between your needs and the company’s desire to support the community via charitable work — a win-win situation for all.
Reevaluate your Mission
Consider re-evaluating your organization’s mission statement and suspending new programs in order to preserve the organization itself. Many not-for-profits branch out over time and look for ways to expand programs. With funding limitations, however, expansion should be re-evaluated and possibly put on hold or undertaken on a smaller scale until additional funding becomes available. A fiscal checkup of any business is a way to retune its operation, but today is even more critical to ensure survival.
Any expansion, if undertaken, should be collaborative. Collaboration is an extremely effective tool that can help nonprofits grow, while minimizing the expense of such expansion. Seeking not-for-profits with complementary missions is a great way to position for expansion in a market like today’s. While accomplishing this will take some research and networking, collaboration provides a way to complement the work of two organizations. Not-for-profits that help the same segment of the population, by partnering their programs, will continue providing necessary resources and at the same time continue growing.
As everyone struggles to make the best of today’s economy, not-for-profits, which are on the front line of helping others, need to re-evaluate in order to continue offering their invaluable services. These financially trying times will one day be a thing of the past. In the meantime, as everyone adjusts their lives to today’s economic environment, not-for-profits should aim not just to survive, but to seize these circumstances as an opportunity to innovate. It will do a world of good for everyone.