This Scares Our Pants Off.

April 10, 2013

cashonhandThe Nonprofit Finance Fund recently released its 2013 State of the Nonprofit Sector Report.

More than half of nonprofits reported that they were unable to meet demand for services over the last year, and a slightly higher percentage do not believe they will be able to meet it this year.

Throw in the 42% of nonprofits that report not having the right mix of financial resources to thrive and be effective in the next 3 years, and we have a scary but realistic picture.

By the way, one in 4 nonprofits has 30 days or less cash-on-hand.

What do we do with this?

There are lots of resources available to get our sector in better shape.

We are lucky to be in a community with capacity building assistance available from two community foundations, facilitation of collaboration discussions available from The Patterson Foundation, a strong local Association of Fundraising Professionals presence (Southwest Florida chapter), and many other supports.

Let’s start with new nonprofit organizations. There may be important missions that still need to be addressed nationally and in our community, but before embarking on that next 501(c)(3) journey, it is critical to research funding models, understand realistic outcomes and true needs, and consider ways to collaborate or work with existing programs first.

We get calls weekly from well-meaning people who want to know how to start a new nonprofit. Few have answered critical questions related to sustainability. Our first suggestion is to review The Giving Partner to understand what established organizations are already addressing their mission focus.

Next, let’s look at your fundraising needs.

The recent survey of nonprofit professionals who attended John Elbare’s workshop, “Cultivating Donors After the Challenge” at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County shared some insights about their needs.  Here are the most critical fundraising opportunities they identified:

    1. At the top of the list: a focused fundraising plan.
    2. Second: more board involvement/leadership in fundraising.
    3. Third: more staff resources committed to fundraising.
    4. Fourth: implementation of good systems like donor databases.

Tomorrow we will post links to resources that help address these needs.

One thing is clear: developing a good fundraising program, revenue that increases from one year to the next, and healthy cash reserves (at least 3-6 months) are investments we cannot afford to neglect.

We can track these trends locally via nonprofit profiles in The Giving Partner. Funders and donors in our community want you to be successful!

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County


2 Responses to “This Scares Our Pants Off.”

  1. Hi Susie, This seems logical but I want to point out that our small cat rescue, 7 years old now, seems to be constantly overwhelmed with new demand, more demand and requests to help in geographic areas we had not been in initially. These areas mostly have NO services before ours came along. Getting demand to level off will take 10-20 years of work to reduce animal populations to a stable point. The only way I can think of to control the work is to say no to some people and leave some places with no services, hoping that more grassroots folks will start their own nonprofits to reach the areas right around them.
    I think there needs to be a categorization of true grassroots nonprofits such as we are, versus those who have bigger ambitions. Operating out in the streets is a lot different than sitting behind a desk 9-5 and expecting clients to come in to see you.
    The more successful fundraisers have the desks and the office hours, but the grassroots ones have stronger ties into the needier parts of the community. And often less funds and no fabulous fundraising plans, i.e. galas.
    If we decide to get bigger so we can have fundraising and galas be a big part of what we do, then we find we spend a high % of the new money on getting new money not on our mission.

    Just some thoughts that were not in your piece.

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