Culture trumps strategy. We all know the adage. So when a foundation is contemplating a more-ambitious communications strategy, what can it do to build a culture that will embrace that change?
Poor capitalization remains the norm in the nonprofit sector, despite the now common wisdom that long-term financial health is a means to mission fulfillment. Most nonprofits, regardless of sector, subsist on one to two months of working capital. Their leaders and supporters have become accustomed to this hand-to-mouth existence.
The giving sector deserves credit for many things, but efficiency is not always one of them. For as long as there have been foundations investing in worthy causes, there have also been critics rightfully pointing out the duplicative, even wasteful ways with which the business of grantmaking often gets done.
In my last piece for In Philanthrophy, I offered three recommendations for how grantmakers can overcome commonly held misconceptions about the role of money in strengthening nonprofit effectiveness. I encouraged funders to: support comprehensive capitalization planning, reward financial management practices that promote surpluses and savings, and consider seeding cash reserves as a source of funds for handling and taking risk.
The next time you’re inclined to pat yourself on the back for your company’s volunteer work — the murals painted, the community gardens planted, the vacant lots cleaned — think of Kathleen Walsh. She’s the chief operating officer at the YMCA of Metro North, which manages more than 1,000 volunteers a year at its seven facilities, and she sometimes breathes a huge sigh of relief when those do-gooders go home.
A recent national survey conducted by the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute on community foundations and IRA gifts provided some key insights on the IRA Charitable Rollover:
- It is a middle class giving tool,
- The majority of IRA gifts are under $25,000, and
- Community foundations have lost or had gifts reduced as a result of the uncertainty of the tax extenders being renewed.
Eager to sign up. Or completely appalled.
By all accounts Valley Gives was an overwhelming success. In total, Valley Gives Day events of 2012, 2013, and 2014 have helped 559 local nonprofits raise nearly $5.9 million from more than 24,400 generous donors, many of whom gave online for the first time.
There may be no accounting for taste, but that won’t stop Mayor Martin J. Walsh from trying.
For foundation leaders to most effectively support grantees, more needs to be understood about the extent to which nonprofits are assessing performance, how they are approaching this work, and what they are looking for from their funders to support it.