Achieving Sustainability: One of the Challenges Facing Non-Profit Organizations

All non-profit organizations aspire to achieve financial security, and they are certainly highly motivated when the economic situation both in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world is very strong. When foundations, donors and lay leaders have more money to contribute then non-profit organizations benefit from their passion, their enthusiasm for issues, their desire to make a difference and from their generosity. In times like the present there are more pressures both on the funding sources and on the recipients to find ways to insure the functioning of valued social, educational, and human services.

Organizations are presently dealing with actual and anticipated decreases in income and the subsequent budget cuts that accompany these changes. The struggle is now focused on developing approaches to sustaining core services. It is important to be creative and strategic in communicating with present supporters and reaching out to new sources of funding, as well as in reviewing administrative costs and practices.

Although there is mounting pressure on completing the present fiscal year, whether the organization is on a calendar year budget (January to December) or fiscal year budget (July to June), it is essential to also focus on the future. Simultaneously organizations have to look at the next 2 or 3 years and have contingency plans available so they can implement what needs to be done in the short run.

This means the professional staff and the lay leaders need to work together through the organization’s volunteer board of directors, and the appropriate board committees so there is support to implement changes when necessary. Now is the time to garner the strength of the board and their commitment not only in financial terms but also in their demonstrating leadership in being accountable for the continuity of the agency’s functioning. Organizations focusing on strengthening themselves will have a better chance at sustaining themselves during challenging times.

Stephen G. Donshik, D.S.W. is a lecturer at Hebrew University’s International Leadership and Philanthropy Program and has a private consulting firm focused on strengthening non-profit organizations and their leadership for tomorrow. Stephen is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.