ANDREA BALL: PHILANTHROPY
Organization helps nonprofits thrive
Texas Association for Nonprofit Organization offers services, training
By Andrea Ball
Sunday, October 26, 2008
It's not easy running a nonprofit.
What specifically does TANO do?
We focus on public policy to ensure that the interests and needs of our very diverse nonprofit community are recognized and addressed in our own state Legislature and the United States Congress. We offer consulting services throughout the state, such as financial management and accounting services, strategic thinking, grant writing, and other organizational development and sustenance services. We focus on helping nonprofits be effective; and that requires being clear on what they are trying to achieve and having the best organizational processes possible to achieve their mission. We also offer many other professional development and services such as health insurance.
What trends are you seeing on the local philanthropy scene? Nationally?
The nonprofit sector is faced with many challenges, including, but not limited to: An erosion of public support and trust; continued fiscal distress; growing needs; heightened competition; increased demands to demonstrate performance; pressures to attract qualified workers; and increased public scrutiny.
We are faced with higher expectations and ever increasing complexity. At the same time, the sector is fragmented and often afraid to speak up for itself. Too often, we are the invisible sector.
How is the economy affecting nonprofits?
This is a tough question, because there is so much we can be doing to strengthen our organizations and should not be using the economy as an excuse for all of our problems. Certainly our uncertain economic times has very real impact and I cannot overstate the importance of increasing financial support to an ever strapped sector. However, we must not panic or cry wolf. We can take some comfort from a Center on Philanthropy at
What kind of charities do well in this kind of economic environment? Which do more poorly?
Those that do well in this kind of economic environment are the same as those who do well in good times. They are guided by their values, clear in their mission, effectively provide their services, and operate in an organizational culture that strives to engage their staff, donors and clients. They are in a word, honest about themselves and earnest in their service.
Those who do poorly are those who have weak volunteer and/or professional leadership and who believe that just because they do good the public owes them support.
What advice would you give to nonprofits?
I would offer the same advice I include in my strategic leadership gatherings and presentations. To paraphrase H. L. Mencken: Some problems are so difficult you cannot solve them in a million years ... until you take five minutes to think about them. So, I suggest we spend more time absorbing and understanding what is happening and why and developing strategies to create the kind of future we seek.
For information on TANO, go to www.tano.org.