Sink or Swim? Nonprofits in 2010

Milad Yazdanpanah - 07.23.2009

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) there are currently over 1.5 million NPO’s in the US.  This number does not account for organizations with income less than $25K (and therefore does not file the Form 990 with the IRS).  The largest concentration of nonprofits in the nation is located in the San Francisco Bay Area.  There are 25,000 nonprofit organizations in the region and San Francisco accounts for approximately 7000 of them.  Many have questioned the sustainability of NPO’s nationwide asking; "Will nonprofits survive in 2010?"  What steps should nonprofit organizations take to ensure they will survive in today’s economy?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Now is the perfect time to evaluate the internal workflow of the organization and see if it really makes sense. 
    • Questions to ask: Why are we doing it this way?  Will it make more sense to modify some steps to become more efficient? Should we automate our manual processes?  
  • Overhead, just like many corporations have scaled back, now might be the time to reach out to your staff and see how the organization can cut costs without reducing the work force.
    • Questions to ask: Can we have a potluck rather than having our office party catered? Can we celebrate birthdays once a month rather individually and ask staff to pitch in a few dollars?  
  • Seek out volunteers, when people can’t give financially, they will give their time to ensure your organizations success.  Place ads on Volunteer Match , Craigslist, and asking for volunteers.  Approximately 26% of Americans over the age of 16 volunteered for an organization between Sept 2007 and Sept 2008. (Source: Current Population Survey, September 2008)
    • Questions to ask: What aspects of our organization will volunteers have a drive to help? Have we considered seasonal interns with the local universities? How about work-study, offering this as an option will reduce the amount paid by your organization to the staff.  
  • Social media forums, this is not an area to cut corners.  Not just a presence in the social media forms, but a maintained presence.  Your audience is looking for updates to know you are active.  Give them topics for discussion. 
    • Questions to ask: What is the purpose of our social media presence?  Are there people in the organization that can contribute stories? How often are we refreshing the content and sharing stories? How does our audience receive our updates?  
  • Software, will an initial investment in software help reduce future costs in Q4, Q1?
    • Questions to ask: Is there software that we can invest in that will help reduce the amount of time spent and cost of outsourcing? Are we ready for an integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Content Management System (CMS)?  
  • Evaluate your organization’s mission
    • Questions to ask: Are you reaching the maximum audience with the level of effort put forth by your staff?  How can you reach a larger audience without compromising quality?  Can you scale back programs that might not have the level of support you were expecting?   


Statistics & Resources to Help: 

Top 100 U.S. Foundations by Asset Size

Charitable Statistics

Volunteering Growth Rate


I welcome your comments and suggestions on what steps your organization is taking to survive during this difficult time. 


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