Balancing the Mission Checkbook

When the worst case scenario is really soon

For the last six weeks or so there have been quiet conversations and meetings at nonprofits to prepare contingency plans in case of a state shutdown. As with all contingency plans, no one wanted to have to use them. Now that the May 23rd legislative adjournment date has passed, and the governor vetoed the budget bills as expected, the likelihood is much, much higher. The conversations have moved from private conference rooms to big meetings and headlines, including Shutdown Looms in the Star Tribune, and MPR’s post Get to Know a State Shutdown. The State of Minnesota must have a budget in place by July 1st or the money to operate the state’s activities runs out.

How concerned should you be? I think that we’re probably all concerned about the broad policy question and impact on the state. How worried should you be in your role as a nonprofit staff or board member? If you receive funds that flow from the State of Minnesota, you should be very worried. There are a lot of variables to consider and information to sort out, and it’s hard to accurately predict exactly how the state government would manage the shutdown if it happens. At the time of the shutdown in 2005 some services were declared “essential” as described in the MPR article, but don’t rely on those decisions made by a different administration. Budget Commissioner Jim Showalter has said that a shutdown this year could be “much, much more extensive.

We are urging all nonprofits that rely on payments from the state to develop a worst case contingency plan as soon as possible, with an emphasis on one thing: CASH.

Here are our recommended steps:

  1. Do you have revenue that comes to you directly from the State of Minnesota? Do you have revenue that is indirectly from the state, even if it is paid to you through another entity, such as a county, a collaborative, or partner?
  2. If you do receive state funds, how much do you expect to receive in July and August? What would be the impact if you do not receive any of these payments in July and August?
  3. Now is the time to update your cash flow projection or create your first one. We have two good resources, the guide to Managing Cash Flow and the cash flow template (Excel) that you’ll find in the Nonprofits Assistance Fund resource library. If you need some help developing your projection, Contact Us to talk with one of our staff.
  4. Do you have internal cash accounts or reserves that could handle the cash flow gap?
  5. Do you have a line of credit available that could cover the cash flow gap? Would the loss of state payments affect your ability to access your credit line? If you don’t know, find out.
  6. If nonpayment would impact your agency’s ability to maintain services, meet payroll obligations, or sustain basic operations, you need a cash plan fast. To be prepared, consider managing cash flow starting now to accumulate a temporary cash cushion even if you don’t have reserves.

If the cash flow projection gives you bad news, be prepared. There may be very tough choices to make about temporary service reductions, staff furloughs, or expense reductions or delays. There may be ways to lessen the impact with advance planning. That’s what contingency planning is for. Don’t wait.


Kate Barr believes that every nonprofit financial question relates to strategy, structure and mission impact. She enjoys interpreting financial information to find stories numbers can tell. She loves writing, teaching, and talking with interesting people.