Nonprofits can turn small into meaningful

Nonprofits can turn small into meaningful

Posted on November 28, 2012 by Pam Truitt

My last blog highlighted The Giving Partner, the local GuideStar tool that promotes nonprofit transparency to help donors make informed decisions. I highlighted the factoid that 55 percent of nonprofits with profiles have annual budgets of less than $1 million.

This blog will focus on the human resources component—full time staff—as an indicator of the ability to deliver programs. Let’s drill down in the data.

Of the 255 profiles ….

23 percent have no paid staff

33 percent have 1-5 staff members

Small (or no) staff isn’t always a sign that an organization is inefficient or ineffective. But one wonders how 56 percent of the nonprofits can possibly handle their entire business infrastructure, including fundraising, while delivering programs with skeleton staff. Volunteers definitely fill some of the void, but my experience has been that volunteers desire to take on roles that are personally gratifying—museum docent, teaching toddlers how to draw, re-roofing a historical home or taking an elderly person to an important appointment.

Frequently, administrative functions fall by the wayside. And if you’re anything like me, I will always put off to dead last those least-liked items. At the top of my dead-last list? Dealing with an HR issue, trying to figure out how to pay for staff training, writing a grant or reworking the website. None of these even come close to striking a chord with me the way reading to a child can.

To that point, I read with interest, a fresh article published by Stanford Social Innovation Review, by Illinois-based consultant—Jean Butzen—who wrote about an administrative consolidation among nonprofits in the Chicago area who serve people with disabilities. I think it’s pretty good stuff.

If anyone who is involved with a small nonprofit would care to share your thoughts, I would love to read and respond to them!

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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