Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

April 4, 2011

Nonprofits should hold their ground


By Todd Cohen

Despite faint signs of relief from the pain inflicted by the shredded economy, financial strain continues for nonprofits, making it essential that they keep assessing and adjusting their business model and focusing on their mission.

Many nonprofits have looked hard at the way they operate and made tough decisions to tweak or drop programs and operations that do not work, to boost those that do, and to find partners that truly want to work together.

That is the kind of scrutiny and planning that should be ongoing at nonprofits, in good times and bad.

But with nonprofits under growing pressure to do more with less, taking time to plan can seem like stealing precious resources that should be laser-focused on trying to meet rising demand for services.

It is critical that nonprofits not let even a whiff of financial improvement lure them into thinking they now can retreat from their struggle to remake and adapt themselves to the new era of rapid and continual change and uncertainty.

Recent reports have suggested that, after two-and-half years of economic stress, nonprofits are making some financial progress.

The Nonprofit Research Collaborative reported a bigger share of nonprofits raised more money or the same amount in 2010 than in 2009, while a smaller share raised less, and nonprofits that invested in fundraising were more likely to see increases.

A separate report by M+R Strategic Services and NTEN found that online fundraising, not counting the outpouring of giving to international disasters, grew 10 percent in 2010 after falling in 2009.

And a report by Total Compensation Solutions said nonprofit salaries growing and showing the same modest improvements as those at for-profit companies.

While a report by the Nonprofit Finance Fund said the financial pressure may be letting up, it also said nonprofits expect the financial and operating crunch will continue.

If nonprofits have learned anything during the economic storm, it should be the crucial need to think and act strategically, build planning into their routine, and make tough decisions about what to keep, what to cut and what to change by determining whether it truly helps sustain the organization in advancing the mission of serving people and places in need.

Succeeding in the new nonprofit marketplace

“Thriving, not surviving, in a tough economy will be the focus on a Philanthropy Journal webinar on April 19 led by Sylvia Oberle, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County in Winston-Salem, N.C. The webinar will highlight specific strategies in operations, programs and fundraising that will help nonprofit staff and board members lead their organizations toward positive change.To find out more about the webinar, and to register, click here.

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