For the past five years I have been studying the effectiveness and efficiency of the Florida nonprofit sector. Although there is no question my home state’s nonprofit sector makes an impact on the quality of life for millions of Floridians, statistics show alarming inefficiencies and lost opportunities in a sector with an enormous amount of financial and volunteer capital. Having worked in nonprofit for almost 20 years, I know how challenging it is to run a nonprofit organization with little money, little professional support (i.e. certified acountants and lawyers, experts in fundraising, board management, grant writing, program implementation, etc.) and LOTS of big ideas. In my opinion, Florida’s nonprofit capacity is our biggest problem, and finding a realistic way to fix this problem is our most immediate challenge. In response to this challenge I have been developing a nonprofit business plan that if funded, would address the needs of Florida nonprofit organizations and significantly increase both their efficiency and effectiveness. This nonprofit organization, which would serve all Florida nonprofits, is called Florida’s Center for the Advancement of Nonprofits.
To explain a bit about where the idea of this organization originated, i have to start at the beginning (so excuse my overly-simplified explanation). As most of you know, communities are generally organized around three realms: the government, business, and nonprofit sectors. Like a three-legged stool, all three sectors must be present, sturdy, and working together to achieve balance and stability. However, in today’s rapidly changing environment, there is considerable concern world-wide that the nonprofit sector may lack the capacity (defined here as the effective and efficient operation and program management of nonprofit organizations) and technical expertise to keep up with change and thereby contribute to an enriched and healthy community. Many of our small, community-based groups are organizationally fragile. Many of our large groups are stretched to their limit. As demand for social services grows and new needs are identified (and as the government sector transfers responsibility for the social programs they can no longer afford to the nonprofit sector), nonprofits will be continually challenged to improve its capacity; and because our current economy does not provide much confidence in an increase in donated dollars for any time soon, nonprofits also need to run as efficiently (and effectively) as possible. An increase in capacity could be just what the sector needs to help fix this significant problem that philanthropists have been working on for decades - improving the low effectiveness and efficiency of the nonprofit sector. Increased capacity could make donor dollars go further and programs more effective, leading to a limitless impact on the state of Florida. Florida’s Center for the Advancement of Nonprofits was developed with this mission to take the currently harnessed potential of the third sector and provide limitless opportunties to improve the quality of life of all Floridians.
According to the Nation Center for Statistics in Washington, D.C., although the state of Florida ranks third in the country for both the highest number of nonprofit organizations (2,311,000 filed returns) AND the highest total nonprofit cash assets ($11,696,000,000) and expenditures, we still rank at the bottom on almost all major social service issues.
Florida nonprofits clearly have an intense determination to help their communities, but most of them find they have little time available to deal with operational and program challenges. Inefficiencies creep in; opportunities slip away; simmering problems go unaddressed until they become much larger & much more challenging. Helping non-profits avoid or deal with such problems (as well as take advantage of opportunities) is what the Florida Center for the Advancement of Nonprofits (FCAN) will do.
The central challenge in Florida’s nonprofit sector is how to make improvements in efficiency and effectiveness more realistic. Florida nonprofits today do not manage their organizations to maximize results, but not due to lack of interest or passion. Nonprofits simply face too many increasingly large and numerous challenges, and are lacking either the money or the professional expertise (or both) to improve.
FCAN – a state-wide nonprofit organization that provides networking, training opportunities and professional support to Florida nonprofits – will help our local nonprofits manage and lead more effectively, eliminate duplicate services, collaborate and exchange solutions, provide services more cost effectively, and most importantly, achieve the greatest possible impact in our communities and across our state. FCAN will improve our sector’s collective impact with support in three critical areas:
- Affordable Professional Consulting & Capacity Building - Bringing together nonprofit professionals representing a variety of important skills (IT, management, outcomes, strategic planning, board development, etc.), and making them available to all Florida nonprofits for a reasonable cost.
- A Nonprofit Network & Collaboration Opportunities – Increasing collaboration by developing a professional network to communicate new solutions, share strengths & promote best practices. We will only achieve significant impact when we fully leverage ourselves as a collective, collaborating group.
- Advocacy – Educate the public on the challenges facing nonprofits, the importance of funding capacity & the extent of the sector’s contributions; advocate to policy leaders on the impact of public policy.
If Florida foundations and grantors partnered with FCAN and helped fund this nonprofit organization, they would be repaid over and over as the programs they fund become more efficient (saving them money). Moreover, as effectiveness increases, the impact of these programs would grow exponentially and lead to limitless impact.
I acknowledge that any effort to put a stake in the ground about making philanthropy more effective is a humbling experience. There are so many facets of the challenge, yet each of us develop our perspective from a set of experiences representing just one narrow slice. That is why I have spent the last two years studying different ideas and talking to various nonprofit professionals, and collecting many of the ideas now included in this plan. This concept is not new; in fact, there are many states around the country already served by a similar type of nonprofit organization. I have simply modified their business plans to fit Florida, and added some elements uniquely helpful to Florida’s nonprofit sector.
But I can’t do it alone. If you live in Florida and are interested in helping me fund and expand this organization I would love to hear from you. If you have any comments or helpful information, I would greatly appreciate that as well. My goal is simply to strengthen the nonprofit sector in Florida, improving our quality of life and strengthening our local communities.
- Benchmarking & Best Practices… Evaluation is Not Enough (philanthropyedge.wordpress.com)
- 11 Questions to Help Nonprofits Prepare for the Giving Season (prweb.com)
- Giving the US nonprofit sector a seat at the federal table (Rep. Betty McCollum) (thehill.com)
- It is all for a Good Cause: Mapping Nonprofit Locations (policymap.com)