Doing less with more, getting more bang for your buck, being transparent with your spending, streamlining the process and downsizing.  These are very familiar statements used since the current economic down turn began.  You have seen corporate stores and small businesses close in your community and across California.  Unfortunately nonprofits have not been immune from the same catastrophe.  Good intentions and hard work are not enough to keep your agency viable and your doors open.
Paying attention to details in a few areas will improve your agency’s chance of stability and potential growth when other agencies are struggling to pay salaries and keep the electricity on.

  • Infrastructure
  • Staff Development
  • Resource management
  • Board of Directors
  • Collaborations

Infrastructure provides organizational structure in order for the agency to function and meet its intended goals.  Having detailed goals clearly defined in a business plan with how you are going to attain them is a common task that boards and management undertake.  As the economic climate changes so should your business plan; the business plan is not static but a living document that is a road map for the agency.
Staff Development
A common reaction of businesses when budgets are tight is to decrease or completely abandon the staff development budget.  Things change constantly in our field of work; there are new issues or obstacles that need to be addressed.  Providing staff with the tools necessary to serve clients and the community is important.  Staff training does not always cost your agency an exorbitant amount of money.  You can receive in-service training from other stakeholders in your community.  CALCASA provides ongoing webinars, pod casts, on-site trainings and consultations at your agency and even stipend reimbursements  for various CALCASA sponsored in-person trainings that your staff may attend.  Continued training also keeps your staff prepared, increases retention and promotes personal career growth.
Management Resources
Monitoring your fiscal resources and staffing patterns on a regular basis are two ways in which you can maximize your resources.   You may ask yourself “when I monitor my fiscal resources, what does that involve?”  Are funds being spent appropriately and in a timely manner?  Are billings for reimbursements up to date?  Are my debt obligations being met?  Does my agency have positive cash flow?  Am I reverting money back to the government at the end of the year instead of spending it on client services where it is most needed?
Analyzing your staffing pattern can reduce overtime or stipend payouts and ensure that people are not overworked and exhausted when serving survivors and their families.  If you know that 40% of your sexual assault call outs happen after 4:00 p.m.; then why would you schedule all of your advocates to work from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.  Correlating staff schedule to work need can help with productivity, reduce staff stress and improve the quality of service being provided to clients. 
Board Development
Is your board actively involved in the vision and welfare of the agency?  Do your Board of Directors know how the current economic crisis is affecting your agency now and in the future?  Engaging the board in strategic problem solving is important.  Also providing the appropriate trainings to address such items as legal responsibility, roles within the agency and being a resource for the Executive Director is a good start.  An appropriately involved and trained board can be a guiding light in a storm of economic turmoil.
Many for profit entities that have emerged out of a recession stronger and wiser have found better ways to produce a service during a time when people are spending less.  Nonprofits must do the same when donors are giving less and fewer dollars are available through grants and foundations.  Looking at ways to establish collaborative partnerships with agencies and stakeholders in your community to better serve clients is the new frontier and the expectations of many foundations and government agencies that provide fiscal support.
It is not enough to have an memorandum of understanding signed by agencies to indicate that you are working together.  If you are going to position your agency to be the experts in your community; then you need to innovate and find more efficient and creative ways to better serve the needs of survivors.  Below are a few ideas from rape crisis centers across the country:

  • Work with legal firms to provide attorneys that work pro bono to address  civil, employment or immigrant issues related to sexual assault survivors.
  • Work with another agency or business to establish a satellite office in a under served community where your services are needed.
  • Marketing sexual harassment trainings to for profit  businesses.
  • Utilizing office space in your local law enforcement agency where an advocate can follow up with survivors who are going to speak with detectives regarding their cases.
  • Getting taxi cabs or van shuttles to provide transportation services for survivors of sexual assault when law enforcement is not available or unable to transport.

The ideals for collaboratives are endless and can create a renewed sense of purpose for rape crisis center staff, improve relationship with the partner agency, and provide a new or better service for clients.
There are many variables why an agency may or may not survive when the economy landscape is layered with a backdrop of uncertainty. However, paying special attention to the five areas identified in this posting will allow your agency to increase its probability of success in this economic crisis.  
If you have comments,questions or require additional information regarding anything discussed in this posting, please respond in the comment box below.
Additional Resources
Infrastructure Checklist
Developing a Rape Crisis Center Board
California Economic Indicators
A Practical Approach to Collaboration