How Do Non-Profits Meet Greater Demand for Services?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently held an online discussion about the challenges non-profits face when trying to meet greater demand for service when the economy is still struggling.  75% of the people polled said their organizations have faced a cutback in government funding in 2011.  Contrast this with the 70% who saw an increased demand of service during the same year.  How do organizations keep up with the needs while still keeping their costs and budgets under control?

The experts brought in for the discussion were Anne Dyjak of Nonprofit Finance Fund, Joe Harrington of California Charter Schools Association and Jay Laudato of Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. These professionals came together to answer questions put forward by the participants. We’re going to highlight a couple of questions and summarize their responses, but you can see the full discussion by following the link at the end of this article.

Question #1 – How do you meet immediate urgent needs without missing opportunities to address the chronic as well?

This problem can be approached by a couple of ways.  One would be by seeking a coalition, or a collaboration with other organizations doing similar work as yours.  Pool resources and focus on the strengths of your organization to meet needs in the most strategic way possible.   Another
approach would be to re-examine your mission and identify what need/service is really critical to your community.  Take a look at the programs you offer and prioritize them based on what you find to avoid being pulled in too many directions.  Also, be sure to include staff, board and other stakeholders in your decision-making process to ensure transparency and communication.

Question #2 –  In today’s market, funders want to see more collaboration among agencies, while agencies, particularly non-profits struggle to keep the doors open.  How do you work through those issues?

Collaboration is vital and yet difficult to do.  Organizations in a community could find themselves competing for the same funds.  If those organizations could find a way to work together to meet a need, the competition within the community would be diminished and the emphasis would be back on the community needs.  There may be areas where the organizations are overlapping service and programs could be streamlined through a partnership.  This is especially helpful and useful if the organizations have similar business models as well as a shared mission.

Question #3 – We still find turf issues among some organizations.  Are there any suggestions for getting people to move in the direction of collaboration which includes sharing of resources? What are some examples?

When getting people to move in the same direction, it’s important to identify key areas where you all agree and mobilize behind it.  This can be accomplished through a facilitator, or an external organization, to get people involved.  CDP has served as a facilitator on certain community-wide coalitions to help bring an overall focus to the need and direct resources in a strategic manner.  Often the organizations just need a well-respected member to step forward and inspire  people to think beyond themselves and their way of doing things.

For the full discussion, visit here.

This article was featured in the September 2011 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
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