The Skills to Pay the Bills: An Evaluation of an Effort to Help Nonprofits Manage their Finances

Author(s): Walker, Karen; Grossman, Jean; Andrews, Kristine; Carrington, Nicholas; Rojas, Angela

Organizational Author(s): MDRC; Child Trends

Funding Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation
Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
Kresge Foundation
Sandler Foundation
Starr Foundation
MDRC

Resource Availability: Publicly available

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Summary

Inspects process, cost, and results from an intiative in which youth-serving nonprofits were provided resources to strengthen their financial management.

Description

This report examines a four-year financial management intervention with 25 nonprofit organizations serving Chicago youth as part of the Strengthening Financial Management in Out-of-School Time (“SFM”) project. “From 2009 to 2013, Fiscal Management Associates (FMA), a consulting firm that works with nonprofit organizations and foundations to strengthen financial practices, provided [the selected] organizations with access to peer networking opportunities, and provided each of the two [study] groups with one of two models of consulting and training. The two models varied in the amount and type of professional development assistance offered to the organizations involved” (p.ES-3).

“[The evaluation] examines the following questions: What forms of support do organizations need to strengthen their ability to manage their resources? What type of time commitment does this require from the organization itself? From consultants? What types of changes need to be made to funder practices, and how might those changes be achieved? When those changes have been achieved, how effective have they been? What lessons can the evaluation offer those who seek to strengthen the financial management of nonprofit organizations?” (p.ES-5)

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Findings about Professional and Organizational Development Models:
• “The financial management practices of nearly all of the participating organizations improved over the course of the initiative” (p.ES-5).
• “According to organizations’ leaders and senior staff members, better financial practices led to better program planning and management, and to improved organizational stability” (p.ES-6).
• “Multiyear professional and organizational support — combined with funding to purchase new financial software and to defray some of the cost of staff time — helped organizations achieve long-lasting change” (p.ES-6).
• “To succeed in achieving the aims of SFM, an organization’s leaders needed to be motivated to change from the outset” (p.ES-7).
• “The financial practices of organizations receiving the group learning model of support significantly improved, though more slowly and not quite as much as those receiving the customized learning model, indicating that this less expensive approach was cost-effective” (p.ES-7).

Findings about the Policy Work:
• “The second prong of the initiative, aimed at influencing funding practices, made some progress, but was slow to achieve results” (p.ES-8).
• “The most pressing funding problem facing the SFM organizations over the course of the project was late state payments. The Great Recession resulted in payments that were delayed by up to six months, and little could be done to speed them up” (p.ES-8).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

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Publication Date: 2015
Posted: 9/2/2016 1:32 PM
Posted In: Workforce System Strategies
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