The Nonprofit Repositioning Fund came to my attention yesterday on Twitter. It’s a fascinating and necessary “collaborative effort to improve the capacity, effectiveness, and financial health of the Greater Philadelphia nonprofit sector.”
As organizations grow, they develop fat and can become wasteful. This is especially true of nonprofits, where many of the key leaders might be volunteer board members or part time staff whose sense of authority or accountability might be less than in a typical company. Anecdotally, this is what the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been dealing with since Archbishop Chaput’s 2011 arrival on every level. It’s been a major theme at every Archdiocesan Pastoral Council meeting, and I expect his legacy for Catholic Philadelphians who are paying attention will be as a great reformer.
Then there are more traditional nonprofits I’m familiar with. The Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia has retained its founding DNA as a lean and mission-centric nonprofit, and that’s paying dividends as it grows. Other organizations fail to embrace a lean organizational model, and this typically means that fat grows if/when revenue grows, which means the mission never becomes as impactful as it otherwise might be. The Nonprofit Repositioning Fund speaks to these realities across the sector:
The nonprofit sector is of fundamental importance to the Greater Philadelphia region. With a total of over $11 billion in annual wages, the sector is one of the major economic drivers of the region’s economy.
Despite an active and vibrant regional nonprofit sector, some of the region’s individual organizations struggle with issues of insufficient scale, duplication of effort, undefined leadership succession, limited public and private sources of revenue, and high back-office costs. In the face of these challenges, nonprofits may find it difficult to achieve their missions in meaningful and measurable ways.
Since 2011, individual funders in the region have supported more than 55 collaborations to help Greater Philadelphia’s nonprofits secure and strengthen themselves. Based on this experience, and in response to requests from the nonprofit community, these and other funders are now pooling their resources in the Repositioning Fund in order to achieve greater impact.
When we developed the Pro-Life Union’s 2015-19 Strategic Plan earlier this year, we agreed on a major objective of establishing a “Culture of Life Center of Greater Philadelphia” to invite allied pro-life organizations from across the region to share a headquarters. This will mean not only sharing costs like rent, utilities, or software, but also sharing a physical space where staff, board members, volunteers, and others from many allied organizations will encounter one another and hopefully benefit from the exchange of ideas and approaches. It’s meant to provide the context for shared momentum.
The Nonprofit Repositioning Fund confirms to me that the time is right for a “Culture of Life Center.”