The current economic downturn has everyone examining budgets for places to cut expenses. The work of nonprofit organizations is not exempt from this scrutiny – but when a local news article boldly entitled “No free rides, incoming mayor warns nonprofits” was recently published, many nonprofit organizations felt the responsibility to address this issue. Rena Coughlin, CEO of the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, and board chair William Scheu wrote an extremely informative article explaining the relationship between the city government and nonprofits.
Dr. Judith Smith also weighs in with inspiring words about the value of nonprofits, the GOOD work they do in our community and the bottom line return on investment (ROI). We think you’ll agree that funding nonprofits is quite a value!
“Free rides? My guess is that entirely too few people have a good understanding of our nonprofit community, the good that it does, and the miniscule budgets with which this good is generally accomplished. I would challenge any government administration to accomplish as much with as little as most nonprofit organizations manage to do. How on earth could the City of Jacksonville feed and clothe the homeless; provide healthcare to the working uninsured; mentor children and keep them off the streets; help people who have borne the brunt of this terrible recession sharpen their skills to become employable; keep our beaches, parks and public places clean; help the elderly stay in their homes; and provide the many other critical services First Coast nonprofits accomplish annually on funds that include the $2 million that the Public Service Grants provide?
Return on investment? Putting funding in the hands of nonprofits that have learned to make miracles happen on a shoestring is a bargain.
HandsOn Jacksonville harnesses the power and will of our amazing citizens to do good, and we do it on a sliver of a budget. In 2010 we engaged 16,852 volunteers in 1131 volunteer projects with 40,551 volunteer hours. Value: $845,488. Project management consulting services for 1131 customized projects is valued at $1,820,400 if we charged for these services. Our referral of an extra 3,513 volunteers who gave 19,402 documented hours of service to our partner agencies is valued at $404,785. And with the help of our generous funders and 600 of their volunteers, our signature project, A Visit from St. Nicholas, delivered back sacks filled with 28,000 books and 28,000 toys to 6,500 children in 12 elementary schools that serve our most challenged communities. The value infused into these schools through this project alone was in excess of $377,275. We accomplished these things and more on a core operating budget of $720,491 (does not include pass-through dollars or in-kind gifts). Last time I checked, that ROI comes to 379%. And this is just a part of the work we do with a staff of 9 full-time equivalent employees who sacrifice higher salaries because they believe in our work.
And we’re not the only ones. The nonprofit sector on the whole is an exercise in sacrifice – and humility. We’ve seen nonprofit staff and volunteers alike beg and borrow to get medicine, food and clothing to their clients. As for salary cuts, the community should know that salaries of most nonprofit employees are much less than those of their counterparts who work in government or in the private sector. We do it because we believe in it, and because the need is all around us. Of course there are places to look for reducing expenses, and they all should be examined. But at the end of the day, funding the work the nonprofit sector does is money well-spent. Free ride? Not here!”