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June 25, 2022
Coping with Cutbacks Provides Practical Advice for Nonprofits
Book - Coping With Cutbacks-HP
A time of crisis, like that posed by the current economic downturn, also presents nonprofits with an opportunity to assess and possibly refine their purpose. They should study Coping with Cutbacks: The Nonprofit Guide to Success When Times Are Tight.

First published in 1997, “Coping with Cutbacks,” by Emil Angelica and Vincent Hyman, remains relevant today. To wit:
  • ”Mergers and realignment of mission to fill unmet needs pose real opportunities for nonprofits.” Earlier this year, The Boston Foundation issued a major report that, among other things, urged more charities to consider merging. The Crittenton Women’s Union in Boston, which merged with The Women's Union two years ago, is currently in the running for The Collaboration Prize that will award $250,000 to the most successful nonprofit collaboration in the country.
  • ”At the same time nonprofits face decreased funding, they will experience an increased demand for services.” That, in fact, has been the message many Massachusetts nonprofits, especially those providing human services, have been broadcasting since last summer.
  • ”The new environment will reward organizations who not only do well, but also tell their stories well to a variety of audiences.” Fundraising experts advise that only knock-out proposals should be put forth that explain how new funds will help achieve a larger mission, as opposed to keeping the petitioner solvent.
The book is packed with strategies and down-to-earth advice that nonprofits can use to cope with cutbacks, and is worth the read for this alone.

Before developing strategies aimed at responding to cutbacks, the authors recommend that nonprofits conduct a self assessment. They should ask themselves: What do we well? What ought we to do? What do we need to do? What might we do? The questions are simple and straightforward; answering them frequently entails a lot of soul searching.

The authors outline steps that nonprofits can take, ranging from clarifying the problem or opportunity to establishing criteria for success, to brainstorming strategies.

Key to thriving in tight times is to bet on the board, say the authors, who write, “In your planning, make heavy use of the board members who bring a different perspective from the staff and who can link with other individuals and organizations to open up new strategies to the nonprofit.”

The bottom line, in essence, is that everyone affiliated with a nonprofit—from board members to senior executives, staffers, and volunteers—must be fully committed to the organization’s success. They all need to participate in various ways to clarify where the organization is headed, establish criteria for success, create processes for developing strategies, and then develop options and choose the most viable ones.

The authors do more than describe generic approaches. They offer dozens of specific actions for cutting or controlling costs, increasing revenues, modifying organizational structure, and engaging with other nonprofits and businesses.

Moreover, the book include checklists for developing strategies, and 10 reproducible worksheets that nonprofits can use to work through the processes the authors describe.

No one knows how long the current economic downturn will last, but the ones to bet on are likely to be the most creative, nimble, and focused. Getting and reading this book is a good place to start.

Coping with Cutbacks is available by clicking here.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy

November 2008
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