Beginning in 2008 Gardner & Associates has recommended that small Not for Profit Organizations (NPO’s) consider ways to collaborate with other groups to increase efficiency of operations, reduce expenses and enhance fundraising possibilities. Paul and I continue to encourage the collaborative model!
These are challenging times! Business as usual is not practical or sufficient. G&A encourages its clients and other NPO’s to be persistent, patient and willing to look introspectively to adjust your thinking.
The economy continues to take a toll on the NPO sector. NPO’s are challenged by declining revenues and continuing increases in operational expenses. There are indicators that the decline will continue well into FY 2012. While there are encouraging signs for the larger economy, NPO’s lag 15 to 18 months behind an economic recovery.
A recent Guidestar study surveyed 6800 NPOs. Sixty percent (60%) of the respondents reported a decline in both the number of donors and the size of their contributions. Forty percent (40%) reported that contributions fell in the first five months of 2010; 28% reported contributions flat and 30% reported slight growth. Couple these findings with the fact that 63% of respondents reported an increase in demand for their services. Shrinking income with increasing demand is the common theme.
Eight percent (8%) of the Guidestar respondents anticipated that their NPO is in imminent danger of closing. To forestall this eventuality during the economic crisis, 17% reported reducing services and another 11% reported laying off staff.
Nearly one-third noted that they had increased their dependence on volunteers to carry out their mission; while nine percent (9%) indicated their volunteer pool is shrinking as older volunteers return to work to augment their fixed incomes.
How Can My NPO Collaborate with Others?
The first two steps are looking and asking.
Look at other NPO’s with a similar or complimentary mission. Research their mission and programs to see if there are areas in which you could collaborate. That means finding ways to streamline or partner on functions, explore combining service contracts (mailing, equipment, website, printing and purchasing) and consider partnering relationships with staff (volunteers, development, communications and research).
Ask the President or CEO of comparable NPO’s to engage in discussions on how you can work together to advance your mutual goals. Visit each other’s facility. Determine if you might share space to reduce expenses and increase efficiency. Consider if you can move into either of the Northwest Arkansas NPO Centers operated by the Jones Trust.
Then you should consider two additional steps:
Plan a strategic approach to the economy and the demands on your NPO. Look at your governance documents (bylaws and corporate filings) and confirm the role, scope and mission of your NPO in the current economy. Make sure that your mission remains relevant. This is called adapt and adjust.
Implement a plan of action to adapt your NPO programs, budget, staffing and fundraising efforts to the current economic reality. Look for steps that you can take to make a difference and make the decision to implement either adaptations or collaborative efforts.
G&A Recognizes Its Clients’ Accomplishments
West Texas A&M University has been recognized as one of America’s top 25 regional universities.
The Food Bank of North Central Arkansas has been awarded a Walmart Foundation refrigerator truck to increase its ability to collect and deliver food and materials.