Metablogging: Six Year-End Recommendations

Blogging about blogs, I guess it’s come to that as I look back at highlights and ideas from 2015. I’m a sponge for information, ideas, and insights and this has been a good year for all of them. No one wants me to send out an encyclopedia of what I learned this year, though, so here are six highlights.

Three of my favorite blogs posted this year by Nonprofits Assistance Fund:

Lessons Learned in Minnesota’s Stalled Pay-For-Performance Financing Initiative

Minneapolis, Minnesota – December 7, 2015 –The Minnesota Legislature authorized an innovative social impact financing pilot in 2011 to issue state bonds for pay for performance based contracts to expand effective social services.  A report released today by Nonprofits Assistance Fund examines why, while pay for success initiatives have moved forward in other states, Minnesota has failed to issue the appropriation bonds authorized in the Pay For Performance Act of 2011.

The “S” Word: In Pursuit of Sustainability

The term “sustainability” and its variations are everywhere in management articles, research reports, and conference presentations throughout the nonprofit sector. I’ll confess that I use it all the time, too. We can joke that this is just the newest buzzword, but the impetus is real. Leaders and advocates in the nonprofit sector are driven to find ways to ensure that valuable work can continue.

Lessons Learned From Accidental Financial Leaders

One of Nonprofits Assistance Fund’s goals is to build financial leadership in the nonprofit sector, and we know that financial leaders come from many backgrounds. When I first joined a board of directors three years ago, I probably couldn’t have told you the name of an income statement or balance sheet, much less the difference between the two. During my first year on the board, my goal during the finance portion of the meeting was to not say anything stupid. But with time and practice, I’ve started to grow into my role as an accidental financial leader.

The Value of Evaluation – What we Learned About Our Work

“They’re going to do whatever they can to help you succeed.”

Earlier this year, we engaged a consultant to conduct an in-depth evaluation of our programs. We wanted to learn more about the real impact that our work has with our nonprofit clients. We set out to answer the following questions, and more:

Core Strength for Nonprofits: Financial Lessons from a First Time Marathoner

Over the past year I have been enthused by a newfound passion for long-distance running, which began innocently enough as a fifty-something guy cautiously running a mile and a half. While logging many miles since then, I’ve had time to reflect on parallels between my fledgling ardor for running and my long-established passion for nonprofit finance. Running buddies of mine, who are far more experienced in this realm, have taught me that developing core strength is a key to longevity in running. This lesson is true in the nonprofit world as well.

Are you a mission cruncher?

In moments of indiscretion, some people have referred to me as a number cruncher. I understand. For non-finance folks, it’s easy to have the perception that those of us who work in nonprofit finance spend our days poring over formulas and spreadsheets (which, let’s be honest, is partially true). But the reality is, our passion for this work is driven by the missions of the nonprofits we serve and the broader causes they’re supporting.

IRS 990: What’s in it for me?

When nonprofit organizations complete the IRS 990, the standard federal reporting requirement for nonprofit organizations, most probably aren’t thinking about how they will use the form. The 990 is essentially a compliance document, explaining to the IRS the mission, governance, program activities and financial situation of an organization for the prior year. The IRS uses the form to not only make sure the organization still exists, but also to check to see that the organization is meeting the rules for charities, and basically doing the things that it said it would do.

Mind the Gap: True Program Costs

Imagine this budget planning conversation at a human services nonprofit:

“The county wants to expand our contract! Isn’t that great?”

The easy answer is: Yes! We can provide more services in our community! But the smart answer is: It depends.  In this example, we’d need to ask ourselves a couple financial questions:

Déjà Vu All Over Again: Nonprofit Survey Results

Déjà Vu All Over Again: Nonprofit Survey Results
“It’s been a rugged three years for Minnesota’s nonprofits, years characterized by economic instability, management uncertainties, and fundamental shifts in a once-familiar external landscape. Still reeling from significant financial downturns, many nonprofits have used the last few years to take a long, hard look at their internal capacities and financial requirements.”