Nonprofits Doing More with Less

By Giving Hope ArizonaFebruary 8, 2016

Serving a membership of over 700 organizations, the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits is keenly focused on observing, projecting and understanding trends that impact the nonprofit community. We keep a close ear to our nonprofit members and are constantly seeking their feedback on issues facing their organizations and those they are serving. We do this in a variety of ways, including the valuable input we receive from two of our key membership committees: the Policy Council and the Leadership Council. These groups meet 10-12 times per year and provide invaluable insight into the challenges and opportunities associated with operating a nonprofit at a local, state and national level.  

For those of you in staff, leadership or volunteer roles within the nonprofit sector, the following three trends should come as no surprise to you. ‘Doing more with less’ has become the mantra of for-profit and nonprofit organizations alike. Unfortunately for the nonprofit sector, there has been an increased need coupled with decreased resources, making it progressively more difficult for these organizations to maintain services and provide for those who need it most in our communities.    

Trend 1: Resource Drain    

When we think of resources for nonprofits, we normally head straight for the financial side of this story. And yes, we would be correct. However, we often don’t go further than the sponsor or donor investment’s impact to our bottom line. The ripple effect of decreased giving means that nonprofits also have not had the luxury to invest in their organizations. This could mean outdated technology, decreased benefits to attract or retain employees, or time or resources dedicated to leadership development.    

“The ripple effect of six years of very limited resources is taking its toll,” according to a recent article on the National Council of Nonprofits blog. There is some good news though: “marked improvement” on multi-year grants from foundations, as compared to 2011 when this multi-year support was almost nonexistent. However, the strain on resources looks to continue to be a challenge for nonprofits into 2016. This is one of the reasons the Alliance and Arizona Grantmakers Forum partnered together in 2013 to create Arizona Gives Day – a one-day online giving event focused on helping nonprofits increase visibility and access to new and repeat donations. Together, we have raised over $4 million for Arizona nonprofits over the past three years. More information at www.arizonagives.org.    

Trend 2: Increased Need  

As businesses struggled through the recession and its aftermath nonprofits saw demand for services and support increase. Why is that? As corporations failed, and hundreds of thousands of individuals found themselves without jobs, or with decreased financial resources, this put a strain on nonprofits providing support to these groups. You may also be already making the correlation in your mind to philanthropy in a recession and post-recession reality.  Decreased incomes equals decreased discretionary spending. The problem comes full circle. The National Council of Nonprofits states that, “The strain on the social safety net means nonprofits need to cast a wide net for funding, and do what our sector does best: try out new approaches (innovate) and increase efficiencies to soldier on – as long as possible.”   

Trend 3: Advancing Missions through Advocacy  

Now more than ever, it is increasingly important that nonprofits embrace the opportunity to advance their mission through advocacy. There seems to still be some fear and resistance to this notion, however.  Nonprofits, concerned about losing their nonprofit status with the IRS, are hesitant to jump headfirst into advocacy. However, as need increases, and resources become tighter, it becomes even more critical that nonprofits are advocating on behalf of their work and those they are serving. Advocacy at its root is public support or recommendation of a particular cause or issue. Therefore, who better to tell the stories of impact than the nonprofits doing the work?    

The Alliance plays a critical and much-needed role in advocating on behalf of the entire nonprofit sector, while at the same time, leading by example and providing tools and resources to nonprofits across Arizona in order for them to get involved in the unique issues affecting their organizations. In order to do this most effectively, it must be a strategic focus and a joint effort between all parties – from the staff, to the board, to the funders. A great resource to check out is Stand for Your Mission (standforyourmission.org).    

Trends can only tell us so much, though. They are based on what has happened, what is currently happening, and how that might affect our direction and development in the future. It is up to us as the collective community (for-profit, nonprofit and government agencies alike) to come together and find new and innovative ways to capitalize on opportunities, deal with challenges head on, and create a sustainable and thriving nonprofit community. The Alliance stands ready to serve.  Will you join us?   

Find out more about the Alliance at www.arizonanonprofits.org