Finance & Strategy

Real world nonprofit finance matters, and real world thinking about strategies for financial, programmatic, and leadership sustainability. This column is written by Steve Zimmerman, principal of Spectrum Nonprofit Services.

photo of Steve Zimmerman

Two free webinars help take your organization to the next level

Of course it would be great to be one of those organizations that has tons of resources to attend conferences throughout the year and plan long, leisurely retreats to learn the latest best practices. But we live in the real world - one where we're often picking cheese puffs off the floor of our car as we drive from one obligation to the next. Using money to follow best practices means there are fewer dollars available for other priorities (like paying the staff or buying paper for the printer, for example).

That's why the free webinars we're offering are so valuable. Not only can you enjoy them from the comfort of your office, but the price means you'll be able to sign up board members and key staff members as well!

Financial focus: You told us

In our April issue, we asked you to offer your thoughts on how the current political landscape will affect your organization's funding.

Your answers weren't surprising, but they weren't optimistic either.

That's understandable. It's tough to make sense of the world when the daily news includes the President pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, the previous FBI Director testifying about lies from the Oval Office, healthcare in limbo, and a budget proposal that eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the National Endowment for Humanities.

However, understanding the problem is the first step to finding solutions. In order to deliver services in the long-term, we need to make sure our organizations stay focused and have a financial plan.

These survey results underscore the need to remain focused by asking your organization's leadership and board the difficult questions.

Data Visualization: User-Centered Design

Our partner organization, Your Part-Time Controller, offers helpful advice on how U/X and user-centered design methods can better communicate visual stories in a way that advances the mission of your organization.

How to use data visualizations

Data visualizations are very useful for displaying data in a summarized and understandable way. When designed correctly, they can be aesthetically pleasing and helpful for explaining what is going on. When creating a visualization, what is the most important thing to keep in mind? The user. You are creating these visualizations for your audience so it is essential that their needs and requirements are met.

Toolkit: How to Create Cash Flow Projections

For many board members and small nonprofit managers, assessing financial security can create some anxiety. As board members hold fiscal responsibility for the organization, knowing where it stands from a cash flow perspective can be invaluable for making strategic decisions. But this skill sometimes feels out of reach. Many nonprofits operate on a shoestring and spend money when it's available, but knowing the cycle of an organization's cash flow can assist in lifecycle growth. In this helpful video, American Nonprofits' executive director, Marc Rand breaks down the process of cash flow projections, step-by-step.

How to Access TechSoup Donations and Resources

Have you ever wondered how to navigate the world of TechSoup offerings?
Is your IT system still running Windows 95 and using CDs? Well, have we got the solution for you. TechSoup will be offering a webinar to Blue Avocado users. During this tour and Q&A session, TechSoup will highlight the ways you can make the most of the donation and discount programs for hardware, software, cloud applications, and services available to eligible organizations.

How to Work With Your Banker Amidst Change

With more than 25 years of banking experience and an equal tenure serving the Portland, Ore., community with Catholic Charities, Impact NW and other organizations, Kathy shares this advice for how to help your banker to give your organization as much credit as possible.

In the past, nonprofits tended to be asset rich with limited need for credit. Times have changed, however, now that constrained governmental funding, and lower charitable contributions are continuing for the foreseeable future. No banker wants to be the bad guy or to say no to an organization that is doing good work in the community, but a nonprofit borrower that starts to struggle can fall quickly from an acceptable risk to an unacceptable risk, threatening the viability of the organization and the essential services they are providing to the community.

This article seeks to provide several ideas for how a nonprofit can address the impact of these trends in order to help a bank to assist this transitional period through providing credit lines or term loans. The suggestions and the bank's perspective on financial performance can be grouped under the two distinct concepts: conservative financial management and institutional agility.

In These Turbulent Times for Nonprofits

2017 has already brought many new challenges for the service sector, and we can expect more to come. So, there is no time to waste in getting ready for whatever changes your nonprofit may face.

As leaders, we are continually using internal and external resources as successfully as we can to solve new problems and rebound from adversity strengthened, and yes, even more resourceful. In this article I suggest ideas to help weather the storm and benefit from the disruptions.

How do federal funding threats affect you?

It's time for our next Blue Avocado Poll. Does your organization rely on federal funding? Are you discussing the possible budget cuts at the federal level? What are your contingency plans? Please take a minute to tell us what you are seeing, and we'll share what we learn in the next issue. (Responses are all anonymous.)

Beyond the multiple-choice questions, we also invite you to tell us your stories about the potential effect of funding cuts for your organization. Sharing your contact information is totally optional, but if you do, we'll follow up to find out more and plan content for Blue Avocado that can help.

Begin the survey here!

A Milestone in Nonprofit Lending

Hello Avocados! We wanted to share this exciting milestone from the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance of California, founding and ongoing sponsor of Blue Avocado.

In January 2017, the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance of California (NIAC) reached $2 million in lending through its pilot loan program. The Loan Fund offers short-term credit to small and mid-sized nonprofit members of NIAC.

When NIAC first developed the fund we wanted to create an efficient solution to the cash flow needs so common in nonprofits. We received survey responses from 300 nonprofit organizations and found that getting access to cash flow loans through a quick and efficient process that demonstrated understanding of nonprofit financials was darn near impossible. Many nonprofits showed a need for short term loans while waiting for confirmed grants and contracts to be funded. Thirty years ago NIAC took up the challenge of proving that nonprofits were not poor insurance risks and we decided it was time to try to show that nonprofits were also good credit risks. So, we developed a pilot program in 2014 with $1 million of loan capital. Another $500,000 in loan capital was added the next year to meet demand. The NIAC Member Loan Fund provides 12-month loans up to $50,000 at a fixed six percent interest rate.

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