Upcoming NFF Events
Web EventThu, 05/23/2013
Web EventTue, 05/28/2013
Web EventThu, 05/30/2013
I sat down earlier this week, having put aside the 15 minutes it usually takes to complete the NFF annual survey, and I found myself pausing as I pondered the 4th question: “Do you consider yourself a lifeline organization?” While we’re not a direct front-line service provider, this question had some hidden nuances that really made me think about NFF’s mission. After all, there are many ways in which NFF indeed provides a lifeline to its clients.
We define “lifeline” organizations as those providing programs that are critical to the survival of the people they serve. If these organizations’ budgets are cut, the health and safety of their communities is threatened. NFF provides capital and advice to organizations on the frontlines, serving vulnerable populations in some of the country’s most challenged communities. As a financial intermediary—a middle-man/woman of sorts— NFF doesn’t perfectly fit this definition. However, there are a lot of reasons why we’re not as far from the battlefield as it might seem:
- First, we provide working capital. Nonprofits are indeed small businesses. They aren’t often thought of that way – especially social service providers --but they are. They employ people, and so they have payroll; they occupy buildings and so have rents and mortgages; and many of them provide service today – and get paid much later. None of that can happen without working capital, and working capital is what NFF is here to provide.
- Second, we work quickly. Like the medic who provides triage on the battlefield, we help organizations optimize their scarce resources by rapidly stabilizing them with advice and capital, keeping them in the fight.
- Third, we take the long view. NFF is a voice for better, more rational, more enterprise-friendly practices of funding and financing our sector’s work. Those doing the work don’t have the time or the brain-space left to fight this fight – and it’s a critical one. If the voice for change isn’t persistent and loud (and occasionally willing to strike a nerve), then change does not occur. And it must – because the built-in obstacles for service providers in low-income communities are high enough already.
So, for those of you who haven’t set aside that 15 minutes to take the NFF survey – pause for a bit on this question, and consider how you serve your community. Whether or not your organization is defined as “lifeline,” this question made me stop and think about how interconnected the nonprofit sector needs to be to achieve community health. The social fabric has many threads, and damage to one always threatens an unraveling of the whole.
|lifeline, NFF survey, state of the sector survey|