Thursday, November 13, 2008

How Can We Possibly Stay Afloat in These Tumultuous Times?

This morning I attended a breakfast presentation offered by the accounting firm, Sax Macy Fromm in Clifton, NJ. One of their specialty areas is nonprofits and they offer a lecture series for their clients and business partners. The topic Todd Polyniak discussed was ”“How Can We Possibly Stay Afloat in These Tumultuous Times?" Todd offered five suggestions to consider, noting that this was not meant to be all encompassing, but a start.

I have two previous posts addressing the economic downturn but hey – this is coming from a CPA. Todd is a no nonsense accountant which may be just what the doctor orders for some of your organizations. Here are some of the highlights of Todd’s five suggestions:

1.Lighten Your Load – Todd talked about the need to identify your mission critical versus nice to have projects and the need to slim down while making sure you keep your mission critical projects. He enumerated people, program and process – all areas of cuts that may be difficult but necessary. I especially like his reference to “Lean and Team” using consolidation, collaboration and mergers as a way to continue to offer vital services in a more streamlined, efficient way.

2. Redefine Your Identity – It may be time to look at your mission and make sure it meets the needs of the community. Make sure that your message and program content have the right focus for today and the future.

3. Just Ask – Ask early, Ask often and Ask Now was his theme. In hard times there is “a flight to quality.” People reduce giving but they continue to give to those organizations they are passionate about. Do you qualify? Todd asked. Good question. His recommended approach is something we can all do today – Go to your top 20 donors thank them first, state your case and ask when is the best time to approach them for a gift – now, at year end, after the 1st of the year.

4. Make Sure You Are Not Flying Upside Down – Make financial management a priority with regular review of financial reports and FREQUENT budget adjustments. If income is not coming in as expected, then you can’t go all year with the budget you made in October. Plan on making continuous adjustments to the budget. In this category Todd recommends updating your strategic plan and making sure your funding sources are diversified. Flying upside down? Make sure your direction is an ascent - not descent.

5. Remain Calm and Enjoy the Ride – Manage with transparency and avoid surprises. Think decisions through carefully but remember that waiting is not making a decision. There can also be some great opportunities in these tumultuous times.

This was a serious group of people in the room this morning. My guess is that more than one benefited from this “tough love” message. Perhaps you can to.

Sax Macy Fromm

Marion Conway Consulting

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