BTCF Blog | Rebuilding and Recovery in the Nonprofit Sector

BTCF Blog

Rebuilding and Recovery in the Nonprofit Sector

By Tim Wilmot / March 31, 2021 / Strategy, Evaluation & Learning
Rebuilding and Recovery in the Nonprofit Sector

Nonprofits are responding to unprecedented challenges to their missions, finances and operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, many are facing increased demand for services from residents in need. Today, perhaps more than ever, nonprofits are being asked to do more with less, and make decisions about program delivery and resource development while adapting to constantly changing environments.

That’s why Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation has initiated funder partnerships in each of the counties we serve to deliver support for individual nonprofits, to staff and board leaders, to collaborations, and to the sector as a whole. By joining forces with other regional funders to assess the most critical needs and pool our resources, we seek to meaningfully contribute to the stabilizing, re-imagining and rebuilding of our region’s vital nonprofits.

These programs are supporting nonprofits on three levels: 1) providing information and guidance on issues related to organizational management and governance; 2) connecting staff and boards to technical assistance and coaching; and 3) creating opportunities for leaders to reimagine program and service delivery and supporting adaptive change in the nonprofit sector.

BTCF staff have been playing significant roles around coalition formation, researching nonprofit needs, program design, marketing and outreach, and evaluation. Some early results and updates on these efforts follow.

Berkshire County

BTCF is one of the catalysts for and member of the Massachusetts Community Foundations Partnership, a coalition of 14 community foundations across Massachusetts offering tailored technical support to nonprofits as they work to deliver vital services throughout the state. The partnership also provides a collective, community foundation voice for shared social and economic issues in Massachusetts.

Since last November, and in collaboration with Philanthropy Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, the partnership has produced series of technical assistance and capacity-building programs designed through input from the nonprofit community. Target audiences for programming are nonprofits across the state, including staff at all levels and board members, small to mid-size nonprofits, and organizations representing a diverse racial makeup, geographical location, size and subsectors.

In the first phase, free virtual workshops are addressing topics such as strategic planning, fundraising, financial management, and racial justice and diversity, equity and inclusion work. In addition, participants have the opportunity to network with one another, troubleshoot common issues and exchange best practices.

Over 150 staff members of Berkshire County nonprofits have registered for workshops to date from a variety of nonprofit sectors, including arts and culture, human services and education. Post-program surveys show high levels of satisfaction with the content, with participants reporting they are receiving practical and tangible steps to increase their organizations’ capacities; new information, skills and resources; and exposure to ideas and practices to help recover from pandemic effects on their organizations.

In addition, workshop registrants are eligible to receive up to 10 hours of technical assistance by the New York Council of Nonprofits (NYCON) staff and consultants on topics of their choosing. Next up is a cohort learning program that will bring together staff from different nonprofits for a facilitated series focused on strategic challenges common among their organizations.

Columbia and Northeast Dutchess Counties

The Hudson Valley Funders Network—a coalition originated by BTCF and Dyson Foundation and made up of 19 funders serving seven counties—has partnered with NYCON to provide trainings and technical assistance programs to nonprofits in the Hudson Valley during the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic.

The partnership is offering programs that respond to survey findings showing interest in building capacities around fundraising, planning and strategy, finance, operations and technology. A series of virtual workshops has focused on topics such as organizational and financial infrastructure assessments; financial reporting, cost accounting and cash flow analysis; re-opening consultation and PPP forgiveness; and partnerships, mergers, acquisitions and dissolutions.

Staff from nearly 100 nonprofits Columbia and northeast Dutchess counties have registered for sessions, with strategic partnerships, fundraising and cybersecurity emerging as popular topics. Demand for diversity, equity and inclusion trainings and financial planning may lead to an additional program series.

As in Berkshire County, workshop registrants are eligible to receive up to 10 hours of technical assistance by NYCON staff and consultants to dive in on critical issues. There is also potential to support adaptive change in the nonprofit sector through affiliations, shared services/facilities or mergers.

Litchfield County

Four foundations serving grantees in Litchfield County—BTCF, Connecticut Community Foundation, the Foundation for Community Health and Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation—have come together to take a long-term look at nonprofit needs and organize resources.

A survey responded to by 145 nonprofit organizations revealed top needs in the areas of digital fundraising and marketing; navigating and developing revenue streams; and program adaptation. That was followed by a series of focus groups, key interviews and a scan of the sector for the latest ideas on building the resiliency, efficacy and impact of nonprofits.

The coalition is exploring possibilities for collaboratively delivering practical and relevant capacity building initiatives in 2021. Program design components may include organizational assessments, cohort learning opportunities, workshops/trainings on essential topics for recovery, consulting/technical assistance, and general operating support/unrestricted grants for participating nonprofits.

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With support from generous individual donors and discretionary grants from our wide network of funding partners, we will continue to design, implement and evaluate our efforts to deliver tailored support and assistance to nonprofits that are helping some of our hardest hit communities.

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