"The loan from Nonprofits Assistance Fund enabled us to continue to deliver high level services while we adjusted our business model."

Deborah Loon, Interim Executive Director at Avenues for Homeless Youth

 

Avenues for Homeless Youth (Avenues) provides shelter and transitional housing with supportive services that help homeless youth leave behind homelessness and make a positive transition to young adulthood. Despite strong programs, government contracts, and community support, the nonprofit was stretched too thin and struggling financially. Recognizing this was not sustainable, Avenues brought in an interim executive director, looked at its organization, and developed a plan for a stable future. Implementing the necessary changes took time, but with teamwork, dedication, and capital from Nonprofits Assistance Fund, the staff and board at Avenues transformed the organization.

Janet Ogden-Brackett, Loan Fund Manager at Nonprofits Assistance Fund, recalls their situation: "Avenues for Homeless Youth had a cumbersome, complicated business structure. But it also had contracts with Hennepin County, state and federal grants, strong relationships and excellent programs. Their challenge was to implement a new business model that would support the organization." Avenues' leadership understood this and was committed to making it happen.

Understanding the process would take time and working capital, Avenues began looking for a loan that would enable them to make the needed changes while continuing to fulfill their mission. Unfortunately, their financial position made it difficult to obtain a loan from a bank. Luckily, they were familiar with Nonprofits Assistance Fund, an organization dedicated to building financially healthy nonprofits. Nonprofits Assistance Fund approaches lending to nonprofits with the goal of strengthening the organization, including evaluating whether or not credit will be a useful management tool. Janet was able to approve this loan because she was confident in Avenue's plans and ability to implement them, "Most importantly, they had a reasonable turnaround plan and leadership at the staff and board level that was pragmatic and dedicated to the task at hand." Interim Executive Director Deborah Loon recalled, "The loan from Nonprofits Assistance Fund enabled us to continue to deliver high level services while we adjusted our business model."

To become sustainable, Avenues trimmed expenses, while maintaining and even improving core services, and identified new sources of revenue. Avenues' leadership evaluated programs and structures based on maximizing the impact on the youth served. From this analysis, they streamlined operations and changed their staffing model. According to Deb, "Without our team this would not have been possible. The management and direct service staff really stepped up; they asked for and took on extra responsibilities. It was an opportunity for professional development, but it also allowed us to reduce costs and improve impact on our youth. " To generate more income, Avenues built new funding relationships, found and expanded in-kind support from the community, and maximized existing revenue streams by making a payment process more efficient.

With every development, they made sure to keep Janet informed: "They strategically created systems and structures that strengthened the organization. It was encouraging. The ongoing improvements and communication let me know they were on track. " Being familiar with ongoing developments at an organization allows the staff at Nonprofits Assistance Fund to offer timely support and strategic financial guidance. Reflecting on the overall experience, Deb commented: "Nonprofits Assistance Fund is a tremendous resource for the nonprofit community through its financing, training, tools, and insight." Janet served as a resource and sounding board for Avenues, providing advice and information, but also the space for them to make the necessary changes. Meeting the needs of each individual nonprofit is integral to Nonprofits Assistance Fund's work. It's not just a loan; it's a relationship that strengthens organizations.

Deb elaborated about the impact this loan had on Avenues for Homeless Youth: "It bought us time to reduce costs, improve operations and grow our revenue. Nonprofits Assistance Fund allowed Avenues to keep its doors open, improve its services and achieve financial stability." Avenues for Homeless Youth finished its last two fiscal years with operating surpluses and recently established a Board-Designated Operating Reserve Fund. This will enable them to build for the future and continue to be a safe and nurturing space for Minnesota's homeless youth.