by Anne Yurasek on July 28, 2009
Jane and I have recently realized that blogging is, well…it’s been difficult to get to these days. This is not an entry about making excuses…it’s an entry about the challenge between delivering high quality client service and finding the time to be introspective about our work and to share that learning with you. Very often, we will create a research document for a client or be asked to look into a specific trend in the nonprofit sector. The document is created and then, that’s it. Between clients and family commitments, we are struggling with how to capture our experiences and observations and, in many ways, cull out the essential learning for our readers. That being said, we are turning over a new leaf and, in the coming months, hope to share with you more of what we are up to…and more of what we are learning while we are in the field. So what have we been doing the last few months? Multiple projects spread over seven states and Canada for one thing. The focus of our client engagements has focused in three main areas: 1) nonprofit collaborations and strategic alliances of all different forms, 2) strategic planning, and 3)information management. We are currently providing support to the following kinds of nonprofit collaborative efforts: the creation of three nonprofit networks (for service delivery and for economies of scale), a management service organization, a parent corporation, and two mergers. As nonprofit collaboration continues to be a hot topic, nonprofits are struggling with not only understanding the types of options available, but how to identify partners and then engage in a healthy, successful implementation. Are you seeing this interest in your area of the sector as well?
We are also supporting a number of agencies in developing strategic plans. You may think that a downturn is a difficult time to plan – but we believe it is, in fact, a perfect time to develop a better understanding of your organization’s current situation and plot an evidence-based course for the future. From key informant interviews to internal capacity assessments, gathering information to create a common base of information to support decision making is the central tenet of our approach. How is your organization looking at planning these days? A luxury or a necessity?
And we continue our work on information management, supporting an intriguing study of how nonprofits do and don’t use information and evidence to guide decision making. We are piloting a guide for program managers on how to think about the critical success factors for their programs and to link those critical success factors to data collection.
Questions about our work? Or questions about your work as it might relate to ours? We would love to hear from you…
Photo: Flickr, l.i.l.l.i.a.n. Read More
by Anne Yurasek on August 08, 2008
Recently, I have worked with two very different organizations. One organization has been operating for over 20 years offering theatrical productions to raise cultural awareness and support Spanish-speaking playwrights and actors. The organization has sustained itself through the donations of time and energy of those who were passionate about the organization’s mission. The organization received tax-exempt status one month ago. The board is now required to formalize how it operates as a governing board, including asking the paid actors who were members to step down, hiring and providing a salary to the Executive Director, and formalizing the financial management processes to support tax-reporting. The other organization has also been operating for over 20 years – receiving its 501(c)3 status towards the beginning of the organization’s inception. The organization offers programs on a fee-basis – and at the moment, 90% of the organization’s revenues come from program fees. They do offer some scholarships for programs, but offer no other programs on a charitable basis (either free or targeted at low-income populations). In terms of growth, the current management wants to grow by adding more fee-based programs, increasing participants in programs, and expanding the physical space used for programs.
In the first instance, having 501(c)3 status is a major milestone in the life of the organization – by acquiring tax-exempt status, the organization is exempt from paying any federal income tax and it allows individuals and corporations to make tax-deductible donations to the organization and other tax-related exceptions. Achieving the status means that the Board of the organization must hold the organization accountable for staying true to mission – and for not exploiting this new status or using it unethically. In the second instance, it struck me that in the name of growth, the philosophical responsibilities of being a 501(c)3 may have been left behind at some point. If growth solely comes from increasing revenues from programs, is the organization operating as a non-profit or as a business?
I find myself reminding Board members of their responsibilities -- their legal responsibilities to ensure that the 501(c)3 status is not being exploited, their role as stewards that requires them to ensure that the organization’s programs are in line with its mission, and their dedication to ensuring that the mission of the organization is being realized. I am curious though if other organizations or Boards struggle with this issue… how does your organize honor its 501(c)3 status? How does your organization continually stay true to mission? Read More
by Anne Yurasek on June 04, 2008
It’s been about six weeks since our last blog entry…and we thought we would share with you some of the projects and efforts we have been working on.
New Office Space and Training Offerings
In early May, we established an office for FIO Partners in Chester, CT. We will be offering training and consulting services to nonprofits and foundations in southeastern CT as well as in other areas across the state. We are also pleased to announce that we will be offering a series of training programs on a quarterly basis. Our first set of trainings will be held this summer. The dates and topics are listed below:
To register, double-click the training you are interested in, you will be directed to our main website.
Information Management Research Study
We continue to work on the information management research study. This project is a collaboration with our colleagues in New Orleans at Greater New Orleans Knowledge Works. Our team has conducted assessments of six agencies – four in New Orleans, one in Connecticut, and one in Rhode Island. We will be meeting in early June to review the results of the assessments and to identify the common problem set and begin to design the intervention – which may include assessment tools as well as curriculum. We are currently seeking organizations that might want to help us pilot these new tools. Contact Jane at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an interest.
Creating Networks to Improve Service Delivery and Increase Efficiency
The firm has been working closely with a set of agencies that provide services to children with co-occurring developmental delays and behavioral health problems. Given the deeply troubling economic situation in Rhode Island, the agencies are facing significant budget cuts over the next two years. FIO Partners has facilitated a process by which the agencies have designed a system of care that will seek to prevent lifelong institutionalization for these children. The group intends to establish a powerful new community of practice around these children linked with a major research facility. A great example of an effort to turn lemons into lemonade, hardship into hope. We will share more about this exciting project as we are able.
“Constructing a Diverse Board”
Anne Yurasek delivered an interactive training session, entitled “Constructing A Diverse Board: Attracting and Retaining a Diverse Board of Directors” in late May. Sponsored by the Middlesex United Way and the Middlesex Community Foundation, the session’s slides are viewable below:
June 20th – We will be having an “open house” at FIO Partners in Chester, CT, on June 20th from 5:00 – 8:00PM as part of Chester’s Midsummer's Night Stroll. Come by and say hello and learn more about our firm!
June 24th – Jane Arsenault will be the Annual Meeting Speaker for Prospect, an innovative agency in Calgary, Alberta that provides vocational supports to a variety of individuals with disabilities. Read More