When people find themselves in need, they can turn to nonprofit organizations for help. When those same nonprofits need help, where can they turn?
To other nonprofits, of course.
Donations from the public and grants from private foundations provide much-needed financial support, but no charity can survive solely on deep pockets and a worthwhile mission.
Nonprofits are businesses and, like their for-profit counterparts, must make wise business decisions in order to survive. Few nonprofits, however, have the cash reserves to purchase all the resources they need. They must rely instead on the services of other nonprofits.
Technology assistanceWelcome to the computer age. As society grows more dependent on rapidly changing technology, some nonprofits find themselves scrambling to keep up. Budget constraints often make it difficult for grassroots organizations to acquire the technology that would help them reach their goals more effectively and efficiently.
Just as some nonprofits have made it their mission to provide low-income families with easy access to computers, others are working to close the technology gap that exists among nonprofits and to help them make prudent technological choices.
NPower is a network of independent, locally based affiliates dedicated to helping nonprofits incorporate technology into their missions. NPower's national Web site offers nonprofits free on-line tools to assess current technology needs (TechSurveyor) and plan for the future (TechAtlas).
TechSoup, a Web site run by NPower's San Francisco area affiliate, CompuMentor, provides nonprofit organizations with information and recommendations to facilitate successful technology purchases. The site features DiscounTech, a program that allows nonprofits to purchase discounted and donated software and technology products.
Professional servicesImportant legal and accounting decisions are generally best left to qualified professionals. Nonprofits on tight budgets often turn to CPAs and attorneys who are willing to lend their expertise on a pro bono basis.
Several nonprofits serve as matchmakers for pro bono services, connecting nonprofits in need with volunteer professionals.
The Clearinghouse for Volunteer Accounting Services (CVAS) offers a state-by-state search function that helps nonprofits find volunteer accountants and assists accountants in finding volunteer opportunities. Community Accountants is another site connecting nonprofits and accountants. It features "Ask An Accountant," a hotline for nonprofits needing quick answers to their questions.
Legal assistance isn't just for nonprofits in trouble, stresses Shari Dunn, vice president of Power of Attorney. "Lawyers are a part of a healthy nonprofit's structure." The Power of Attorney Web site features a self-assessment checklist to help nonprofits determine whether they could benefit from legal counsel.
Nonprofit managementThere are nearly a million 501(c)(3) nonprofits in the United States alone, and their missions vary from literacy to health care, from sheltering the homeless to preserving a cultural heritage. The skill sets required to fulfill these missions are myriad, but the need for strong management connects all nonprofits.
The Alliance for Nonprofit Management is an association of individuals and organizations devoted to improving nonprofits' management capabilities. The Alliance's Web site features a "provider search" for locating Alliance members either by geographic area or services offered.
Another association of organizations focusing on nonprofit management is the Executive Service Corps. They provide affordable management consulting services for other nonprofits and have locations in 27 states.
Support the sector by supporting the nonprofits that serve it
America has one of the most effective philanthropic communities in the world, thanks to the dedication of nonprofit professionals and generous funding from corporations, foundations, and private citizens.
If you support the sector and would like to see your donation dollars reach as many organizations as possible, consider making a donation to a nonprofit that helps other nonprofits.
The preceding is a guest post by Patrick Ferraro, the Editor of the GuideStar Newsletter.