Friday, October 30, 2009

Do You Know of a Great Local Program with National Potential?

Several nationally prominent nonprofit thought leaders have partnered with Duke University and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create the Social Impact Exchange. This will be a concerted effort to identify nonprofits and programs that are having real impact and connect them to resources to expand and replicate that impact. There is no cost to become a member and they will provide on-line resources and forums in addition to an annual conference, regular training/meeting events, and an annual competition to identify and financially support the best ideas. What do you like about this type of effort? Why will it work or how could it be better? 

Read More. 

IRT Halloween Promotion for Nonprofits

I’m sure most families have Halloween plans for Saturday, but the IRT has a great family show going on right now - The Giver, based on the popular novel by Lois Lowry. The IRT is offering a special 2-for-1 ticket offer for either the 3 p.m. or 6 p.m. show on Saturday. I know it’s Halloween, but the show is only 80 minutes so families can still go trick-or-treating after the afternoon show or make it to a Halloween party after the evening show. It’s simple to get tickets, just call the ticket office at 317.635.5252 and mention the code “spread the word”. I hope some of your families, clients or friends can take advantage of the special offer. For more information about the show visit  

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is Outsourcing or Sharing Back Office Operations the Answer?

A new study tackles the on-going conversation about whether nonprofits can save money and improve services by combining or outsourcing backoffice operations.

Small to mid-sized nonprofits have always struggled to meet their needs for the administrative and professional services that support their core program work. Often referred to as “back‐office” needs, these services have typically included:

· Finance and administration (e.g., routine book keeping and accounting, financial planning, budgeting and reporting, vendor management, etc).
· Human resources (e.g., benefits administration, payroll processing, policy development, recruiting, personnel management, etc).
· Information technology (e.g., computer hardware and software procurement and maintenance, database management and support, website development and updating, etc).

While less commonly understood to be “back‐office” functions, the Meyer grantee survey also identified “public relations, communications, and marketing” and “fundraising and development” as pressing needs for which better solutions are urgently needed. Experts interviewed for this study confirmed the Meyer grantee survey findings that:

· HR issues almost always poll highest in polls of most needed back‐office services.
· Finance and IT are the most in‐demand services for outsourcing by small nonprofits.
· Development and fundraising assistance by outside firms is in great (and increasing) demand.

The Phase I Survey revealed that a large percentage of small nonprofit executives are performing many of these back‐office functions themselves, and many or most of them are dissatisfied with their own performance. For some functions (financial planning, human resources, PR, communications, and IT), high levels of dissatisfaction are reported even when performed by in‐house paid staff, external consultants or pro bono professionals.

The impacts of not finding better solutions to these back‐office needs include: inefficiency and burnout; high staff turnover, cash flow crises, loss of funding, missed opportunities, diminished impact and threats to growth and sustainability. At best, these are enormous distractions for leaders of small nonprofits. At worst, the lack of adequate back‐office infrastructure is responsible for their ineffectiveness in achieving their mission (Non‐Profit Overhead Cost Study, Brief No. 3, August 2004) and incalculable human and financial waste.

The study provides great insight, but unfortunately finds few cost-saving solutions noting that an organization that currently spends little or nothing on HR, Acctg, or IT cannot save money by outsourcing or combining it.

Read the full study. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Can a Founder or Longtime Executive Director Step Down But Not Leave?

Conventional Wisdom Says: To not undermine a new leader's authority--and to allow the organization to develop in new ways--the founder must leave the organization completely when they step down from the top leadership position.

Table for Two's Findings Say: While not for most organizations, there are conditions under which a founder and successor can co-exist - maximizing the founder's assets for the overall good of the organization and reinforcing one another's success in their new roles.

Based on in-depth analysis of six cases in which the founder or long term founder-like leader successfully remains after stepping down from the top post, Table for Two provides:

- A new model for leadership transitions.
- A broader range of options for the founder's continuing role and contributions.
- Insights into the personal and organizational factors needed for success in such transitions.
- An integrated approach to weighing and managing the risks and benefits involved.
- Challenges, coping strategies, and recommendations for founders, successors, boards of directors, and staff.
- Recommendations for funders who wish to support their grantees' executive transitions.

Download the Summary or Full Report.