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Feb 8, 2012

In Review: Providence House Board Retreat

Providence HouseI recently had the pleasure of speaking to board members and guests of Providence House, a Cleveland nonprofit dedicated to crisis care for infants and their families. The organization is currently dealing with the issue that all responsible nonprofits should be facing now: how do we sustain our programs in the face of less certain grants and more certain economic recessions?

The audience was engaged, as demonstrated by a good deal of push back as I pressed them on the true mission priorities of the organization and how breaking even on your key mission can be at odds with your nonprofit mandate.

I often find that the greatest confusion over nonprofit business practices lies in the issue of profitability. The solution is not to take one side or the other; those sides being represented by a) a nonprofit making zero money on its programs and b) a nonprofit breaking even on all its programs. The breakthrough for nonprofit leaders comes when they realize that their most critical service is at the heart of their nonprofit mandate. They must lose money if they are to do more or better than a for-profit would while providing the same service. Additionally, they must figure out how to use their skills to provide profitable services – to different clients, in different locations or in different ways. Why? Because philanthropy, however generous, has never closed the gap between the cost of key services and the revenues from performing those services.

The Providence House board gets it. And I applaud their effort to use that insight to chart a sustainable future for their programs. If you think your organization could similarly benefit from a board retreat, don’t hesitate to learn more here or call 614-314-3855 today.