Thursday, September 24, 2009

CRE Executive Director Hotline Helps Managers Get Answers by Phone

Funded by a grant from the New York Community Trust, a new Executive Director Hotline from Community Resource Exchange provides free practical advice to nonprofit leaders who need answers to management questions. Call 917-344-6678 during business hours. A flyer describing the hotline’s services is available on CRE’s web site.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Social-Service Charities Face Severe Financial Pressures, N.Y. Study Reveals

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that social-service charities are severely strained — and the worst may be yet to come.

Those were the most common refrains from leaders of the 244 New York City social-services charities polled in June.

Seventy-three percent of the charity leaders reported drops in private donations, 62 percent have seen dips in government support, and 75 percent have no endowment nor line of credit to get them through the tough times.

The survey — part of a study by Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs and the Human Services Council, both in New York — found that layoffs have become widespread.

Fifty-three percent had laid off employees in the past year, according to the study. Sixteen percent shed more than 15 percent of their work force. Read more here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

United Ways 2009: A Confusing Mix of Missed and Missing Goals

In the Nonprofit Quarterly’s Nonprofits in the Age of Obama project, we have committed to following significant trends in and around nonprofits as our economic and political environment re-calibrates. This has led us to follow news reports of the traditional goal setting of the nation’s United Ways. We noticed some interesting trends and wanted to get your input on what you see happening in your locale.

One of the most important barometers of the recession's impact on nonprofits—and how nonprofits are adjusting to this increasingly terrible economic downturn—maybe found in the 1,400 affiliates and chapters of the United Way. At Nonprofit Quarterly, we increasingly find ourselves noticing changes in the United Way system that raise additional questions about the direction of this network

It's not simply that most reports on last year's campaigns, at least those reported in the press, describe fundraising shortfalls of as much as 20 percent, though some sites such as the Twin Cities appear to have made or surpassed goals. There are significant changes in United Way fundraising strategies across the nation.

During the past month, the NPQ Newswire has run several stories about an apparently new practice among United Way campaigns. United Ways in Sudbury, Ontario; Stanly County, North Carolina; Belleville, Ontario; Lee County, Alabama; and Kansas City, Missouri have eschewed the longstanding tradition of establishing fundraising targets for their annual campaign in favor of no-target or no-goal campaigns.

Ditching the longstanding common practice of setting a fundraising target is a major cultural shift in the UW system. Explanations of the fundraising shift vary from agency to agency. In Sudbury (Sudbury Star, September 10, 2009), the UW is substituting a target of increasing the number of individual donors from 9,000 to 12,000 for a dollar goal. Oddly, this is not because of poor campaign totals in 2008; Sudbury actually did well, surpassing its 2007 total by raising $2.4 million. But entering 2009, the locality faces layoffs in two ma-jor employers, thousands of job losses in the mining supple and service sector, and labor turbulence between local employers and locals of the United Steelworkers and others. Read more here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pro Bono Work Helps Firms Fight Economic Slump

The Wall Street Journal reported that aome small businesses are following the recession playbook of the unemployed.

Just as many laid-off workers are volunteering more to fill up their free time and enhance their résumés, small-business owners and their employees are doing more pro bono services or volunteer work as a marketing and customer-relations strategy.

The recession hit Studio G Architects Inc. of Boston particularly hard last fall, causing 2008 revenue to drop 30% from the prior year, says Gail Sullivan, the principal. Clients of the 16-year-old architectural firm killed or put on hold 10 projects last October. With work slowing down, the company began providing 15 to 20 hours a week in pro bono services to keep employees occupied and potentially attract future contracts. It worked.

This spring the firm prepared preliminary design projects, such as a playground for severely handicapped children, for various charities. The projects later received full funding and Studio G obtained several contracts, which ranged in value from $16,000 to $100,000. "Offering the pro bono services has given us a chance to maintain our design vigor [and] resulted in people hiring us," Ms. Sullivan says.

For a small business that has lost clients or seen revenue-generating projects dry up, performing free work is a way to keep employees engaged while cultivating new relationships. Donating services to charity groups, churches, schools and other nonprofits can "increase local visibility, deepen local business ties and create opportunity for new business," says Christine Banning, vice president of marketing and communications at SCORE, a Washington-based group that provides free counseling to small businesses.

While it is a strategy that can bear fruit in a tough economy, she warns that small-business owners should set parameters in terms of how much they give away. With charitable giving falling in 2008 for the first time since 1987, dropping about 2% from a year earlier, according to a Giving USA study released last month, more nonprofits could be seeking donations from local businesses.

That is why Robert Politzer, president and chief executive of GreenStreet of New York Inc., made sure his pro bono work can benefit his company in the future.

At a networking event four months ago, Mr. Politzer met the director of the Hudson River Clearwater Sloop Inc., a nonprofit that aims to preserve and protect the Hudson River. Now, the green-building and consulting firm is serving as the volunteer construction manager of the group's new headquarters in Beacon, N.Y. As a public-relations move, GreenStreet is uploading videos on YouTube as it documents the pro bono work. Read more here.

How can your nonprofit position itself to take advantage of these opportunities? Do you have examples of your own success with pro bono work? Share them here.