Fio Partners Interview featured in Hartford Business Journalby Anne Yurasek on February 13, 2012
We are very pleased to share that Anne Yurasek of Fio Partners was recently interviewed by the Hartford Business Journal. You can read the full text of the interview online at the Hartford Business Journal or below.
Free strategy seminars focus on nonprofit issues
By Matthew Broderick
Special to the Hartford Business Journal
Nonprofit leadership has never been easy.
Whether it’s creating the right vision for the organization, securing sustainable funding, or maintaining a happy workforce, executive directors have often shouldered the responsibility for key decisions that drive an organization forward. But in the current economic landscape in Connecticut — with fewer financial and staff resources to address skyrocketing demand for services — many executive directors are confronting more complex decisions than ever, from program cuts to strategic alliances and consolidation, with potentially far-reaching consequences to their organizations.
And, as many nonprofits in the state adjust to the “New Normal” of greater collaboration and the need for more diversified funding, Anne Yurasek says many executive directors may struggle to forge strong partnerships because they often lack the right relationships or sufficient information to make the best decisions for their organization.
“The biggest impediment to more collaboration [among nonprofits] is trust,” said Yurasek, co-founder Fio Partners, a New England-based nonprofit and government consultancy firm with a Higganum office. “The reality is that many organizations — especially those with similar missions — have traditionally viewed each other as competitors [for funding].” However, as financial resources are shrinking, many executive directors, says Yurasek, are expressing greater interest in collaborating.
And Yurasek’s firm is looking to help. In fact, Fio Partners, which has served more than 250 nonprofits since its founding in 2005, will be offering a free monthly strategy session for Connecticut executive directors focused on key emerging trends in the sector: success factors in collaboration, generating new revenue through social enterprise and strategies for addressing morale issue. The first session is Feb. 16.
They are common challenges that many nonprofits share, regardless of size or area of focus. And Fio’s small group sessions (attendance at each session is limited to 12 executive directors) are designed to be one part strategy, one part Dr. Phil.
“We want to bring nonprofit leaders together to get them talking,” said Yurasek. “So many executive directors are busy keeping their heads — and organizations — above water these days, that they often don’t invest the time in building relationships with other nonprofits.”
That insular approach, Yurasek contends, has led to incredible redundancy in the nonprofit sector. “You might have five of six organizations in a region doing similar work,” she said. “We’re trying to educate [executive directors] about how to evaluate opportunities to increase efficiency through sharing office space or a shared fundraising resource.”
And increasing efficiency may, in turn, help improve the sagging morale that many employees in the nonprofit sector feel. In fact, according to a recent report in the Chronicle for Philanthropy, more than one-third of nonprofit employees nationwide say they lack emotional investment in their work and a shared sense of mission for their organization.
The news for the sector, however, isn’t all dour. Many organizations have begun hiring again, according to recent survey by the University of Connecticut Nonprofit Leadership Program. While that news indicates the progress the sector has made since the depths of the recession a few years ago, it still presents challenges for executive directors — who continue to face a tight funding landscape.
It’s a landscape that Fio Partners hopes to help nonprofits navigate. “We want to educate organizations about opportunities like social enterprise [a business arm of a nonprofit] that can help organizations generate revenue and be less reliant upon outside sources,” Yurasek said.
While social enterprise is an option that more nonprofits seem willing to explore, they often take time to generating funding for an organization, Yurasek explained. Add it to the list of complex decisions that executive directors across Connecticut will need to make in 2012 and beyond.
For now, Yurasek hopes her firm’s first round of strategy sessions will help some of those nonprofit leaders make those difficult decisions more effectively.