VOL. 124 | NO. 82 | Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Conference Attendance Hints at Nonprofit Slump
By Tom Wilemon
“The nonprofit sector is the last to really get hit hard and
the last to recover.”
– Nancy McGee
Chief executive officer, Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence
The sign-up list for an event Friday intended to help nonprofit organizations cope with today’s economic challenges may be evidence that the organizations are feeling the financial crunch.
Registration is hovering between 80 and 90 people for the annual conference of the Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence, which usually has between 150 and 200 participants. This year’s theme is “Surviving the Perfect Storm: Reinventing the Nonprofit’s Future.”
“We do need more people to come in,” said Nancy McGee, the chief executive officer the Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence.
“We have been saying for the last couple of months that one of the first things – not only in the nonprofit community, but even in the for-profit community – that gets cut is training. We have tried to make this fee for this conference very reasonable. To hear these speakers and at the fee we are providing is a wonderful opportunity.”
The cost is $99 for Alliance members, $150 for nonmembers and $65 for college students. The conference takes place Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center at 6560 Poplar Ave.
Paul Light, professor of public service at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service, will give the keynote address on “What Lies in Store for the Nonprofit Sector.”
Peter Goldberg, the president of the Alliance for Children and Families, which represents more than 325 nonprofit organizations, will speak on “A Look at the National Agenda: The Impact of Federal Funding on Nonprofits.”
Dione Alexander, vice president of the Midwest Region at Nonprofit Finance Fund, will speak on “Strategic Financial Decisions in Hard Times.”
Others on the lineup include Ruth McCambridge, editor-in-chief of The Nonprofit Quarterly; Tim Bolding, executive director of United Housing; and representatives of Memphis Area Legal Services Inc.
“Nonprofits are going to have to rethink the whole way they go about doing their business as well as a new way of budgeting,” McGee said. “Typically, what has happened in the past is that nonprofits look and say ‘Here are our expenses and we hope for the best on our revenues.’ That’s how they put together their budgets. Well, in this environment, they can’t do that.”
In Memphis, nonprofit agencies account for about 11 percent of the gross domestic product, more than double the national average, according to the Giving Memphis 2008 Report. The city has about 3,900 nonprofit organizations, including charities, churches and associations.
In prior speeches this year, Goldberg has discussed the likelihood of charities merging because of the economy. The Downtown Memphis Ministry recently turned its facilities over to other nonprofit agencies. McGee said she knows of one other organization that is struggling and may have to fold operations.
Feeling the pinch
The Alliance is currently doing a survey of Memphis nonprofit organizations to learn how the economy is affecting them individually. One of the questions on that survey asked about merging.
“When I looked at the results about a week ago, up to that point there was no one who had checked that they were considering merging out of those who had taken the survey,” McGee said. “I have heard through the grapevine – I have no concrete evidence of this – that there are some organizations that are doing some preliminary discussions.”
The experts at the conference will give advice on how nonprofit agencies can stay on budget and not overextend themselves.
Registration for the conference can be done at http://npexcellence.org/conference.php or by calling 684-6605.
“The nonprofit sector is the last to really get hit hard and the last to recover,” McGee said. “While all this is going on in the for-profit community, layoffs and what not, and while nonprofits are beginning to feel the pinch, it’s really over the next nine to 12 months that all this really is going to start impacting.
“When the country starts to come out of this deep recession and starts to recover, it’s probably going to take another year or two for the nonprofit sector to recover. We’re always behind by 12 months to two years.”