Regardless of their size, there is a great need for back-office support among many of America’s community-based nonprofits. So great, in fact, because the human services sector has wrestled with the increasing strains of less funding, greater community needs, and overburdened staff for years.
“With the nonprofit community struggling to be financially sustainable and government and foundation support shrinking, anytime we can have back-office business functions managed efficiently works in the favor of the entire sector,” said Judith Gethner, executive director for Illinois Partners for Human Service. “There’s really a need for support.”
Balancing daily operations with effective program provision has long been a challenge for community-based organizations, but understanding the effects of that challenge on an organization’s ability to address community needs is central to sustaining impact.
In the groundbreaking report A National Imperative: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and the American Public Human Services Association identified five “North Star” initiatives that will improve the future health and sustainability of community-based organizations nationwide.
Two of these initiatives, Capacity for Innovation and New Financial Strategies, led the Alliance to launch a multifaceted operations support services offering that will meet the needs of the sector. Multiple organizations already contract with the Alliance to provide accounting, payroll, bookkeeping, and human resources assistance, including Illinois Partners. The Alliance recently published a case study with Gethner and Illinois Partners detailing the benefits of the Alliance’s new services venture.
“Offering these kinds of operations support services really matters,” she said. “Community-based organizations can pick and choose from a menu of services they may need, and just having that kind of opportunity is excellent.”
“The Alliance customer service is great as well,” said Johanna Bergan, executive director for Youth MOVE National (YMN), adding that staff availability and a willingness to troubleshoot emergent challenges is of incredible value. A second case study with Bergan and YMN was also recently published, and highlights how contracting with the Alliance has allowed YMN to focus on being responsive to its chapter network of youth-run organizations.
“We have a lot of grit on our team, but we don’t have to do everything,” said Bergan. “If there’s an entity that’s doing support services well, and it can do them for your organization, the resulting freedom allows you to focus instead on becoming an expert in the work you’re doing in your community.”
Both Illinois Partners and YMN have taken advantage of the Alliances operations support services, which feature a variety of finance, human resources, and risk management products that include:
- Accounting and bookkeeping
- Employee benefits (medical, dental, vision, life, and disability insurance, etc.)
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
- Retirement planning
- Payroll processing
- Unemployment tax program
- Group purchasing and savings
However, sector health goes beyond just balancing budgets or providing payroll assistance. To meet the demand for a full suite of back-office operations support, the Alliance is leveraging its strategic partnerships to expand its products and address critical needs related to fundraising and development; marketing, public relations, and communications; and information technology.
“This venture is truly about helping the entire sector reach its full potential by offsetting the unique pressures of operating a community-based organization,” explained Lenore Schell, Alliance senior vice president of strategic business innovation. “Our case studies with Illinois Partners and Youth MOVE National reflect the benefits of our services in action.”
United Cerebral Palsy, a national affiliate network based in Washington, D.C., recently partnered with the Alliance to support its financial and administrative needs. As organizations continue to see the value of working alongside the premiere expert on human services sector trends, the Alliance’s presence as a provider of operations support services will grow.
“It is our hope that we can continue paving a sustainable pathway to achieving a healthy society by allowing organizations to do what they do best: Execute on mission,” said Schell.
Learn more about the Alliance’s Operations Support Services and read the case studies on Illinois Partners and YMN online.
For a free consultation on partnering with the Alliance for operations support services, contact Lenore Schell.