Staying Afloat

June 22, 2010 at 2:40 PM | Posted in Finances | Leave a comment

In these difficult economic times, finances are a major concern to everybody in the non-profit sector. Recently, I had the good fortune of attending a conference at Booz Allen Hamilton entitled, “Money Matters: Understanding Your Role as a Financial Leader.” There were four panelists who spoke, each with his or her specific area of professional expertise:

Jennifer Pryce, Portfolio Manager of the Calvert Foundation U.S. Investments.  Jennifer spoke to us about the importance of understanding and knowing how to read our financial statements.  She emphasized the importance of keeping our assets liquid; in other words, as close to cash as possible.  She also talked about loans that are extended to non-profits at very low interest rates.

Rick Moyers, Director of Programs of the Meyer Foundation.  Rick spoke to us about what he looks for in a successful grant application.  Surprisingly, you don’t always have to perform within budget guidelines, but there should be a valid reason for the areas in red.

Marti Worshtil, Executive Director of Prince George’s Child Resource Center.  Marti told us the story of how she had to cut her organization’s administrative budget when faced with the economic downturn.  Fortunately, her staff is still with her.  The last category she wanted to cut was programs.

Walter Smith, Executive Director of DC Appleseed Center.  The economic downturn also negatively affected Walter’s organization.  However, instead of cutting expenses, Walter chose to beef up the fundraising effort.  Luckily, his Board members were able to help him with this endeavor.  They staged several fundraising events and enlisted the aid of their friends and colleagues.

It was very interesting to hear the different approaches to keeping organizations running effectively within dire budgetary constraints.  One thing that everybody agreed on:  cutting programs is the last resort.

For the final portion of the conference, we broke up into groups to discuss several stressful scenarios and identify possible solutions.  All of the situations seemed insurmountable, dependent upon financial management leadership.  The resounding theme of the fictional scenarios:  there was never enough money or space; there was always more need for financial oversight and control.  It was a wonderful and thought-provoking exercise to brainstorm with Executive Directors and financial leaders from other non-profit organizations.  We eventually did come up with solutions, but in this ever-changing world, the question I left with was how many were actually viable and for how long?

As we go forward into fiscal year 2011, I hope that our programs can grow beyond the present infrastructure that supports them.  What I witnessed at our recent graduation ceremony is that LCNV can and does change the lives of our immigrant community.

~Randi Littman, Director of Operations

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