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Discussion Paper, Adaptation

CHANGE OR DIE? ADAPTATION FOR SURVIVAL

Continue the Discussion on LinkedInContinue the Discussionby Lenora Jarvis-Mackey, River City Community Development Corporation, NC

Background

In these tough economic times, rural housing nonprofits cannot simply continue to do what we have done in the past and hope things will get better. Nonprofit organizations, like for-profit companies, are facing a rapidly changing environment. Funders want more for less and private organizations are competing on what was traditionally seen as nonprofit territory. Sustainability is a constant worry.

Historically, nonprofits gauged our success by keeping good records on the number of people we served; the impact on poverty reduction; facilitating or building safe decent and affordable housing; and our advocacy for clean water, sanitary sewer, the provision of livable wage jobs and many other issues not properly addressed by the private sector or by state and federal government agencies. In today’s environment, however, cataloguing success is not enough to ensure continued funding for a nonprofit. Funders are more selective. Track records are important but are not ultimately determinative to long term funding and survival of a nonprofit.

Even with positive track records, nonprofits must remain keenly aware of the need for continued innovation and creativity to sustain our business models and to continue to provide services for our beneficiaries. “Operating like a nonprofit” has somehow evolved into a perception of being overworked, underfunded, and tax exempt. To stay alive and relevant we must operate more like traditional businesses and become more quantumly responsible to survive.

Harold Barnes, president of the Center for Quantum Leadership, defines “quantum responsibility in business” as:

The active process of the business, the leadership and employees holding themselves accountable to each other for the direction and success of the organization. This accountability will lead to the exponential positive growth of the organization and will encourage and facilitate innovation, creativity and productivity such that all segments of the organization will have the opportunity and tools to make a significant leap forward.

Issues and Challenges

Ensuring nonprofit survival and ongoing viability presents an array of issues and challenges. To keep nonprofits functional, nonprofit leaders must appreciate and value the best of what is, as well as envisioning what might be and how to get there. We must read the signs that predict imminent changes in economic trends and make decisions before circumstances are out of control. Useful techniques may come from many sources, including for-profit entities.

Discussion Questions
  • When and how often should we evaluate our organizations?
  • How do we systematically discover what gives life to a nonprofit?
  • When is a nonprofit most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable of serving its customers?
  • How can nonprofits best innovate, adapt, and create the kinds of organizations that are sustainable into the future?
  • How do we go about implementation of quantum responsibility?

Discussion Paper, Outreach and TA

OUTREACH AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE DELIVERY TO RURAL AND TRIBAL COMMUNITIES

Continue the Discussion on LinkedInContinue the Discussionby Stan Keasling, Rural Community Assistance Corporation, CA, and Blair Sebastian, New York State Rural Housing Coalition

Background

Nonprofits, local governments, and tribal governments are working individually and collectively to improve the quality of housing and community infrastructure in rural areas. The technical assistance (TA) needs of rural groups vary widely and often require very different approaches. Rural communities’ TA needs may also differ substantially from the TA needs found in more urbanized places. What are the needs, and where are opportunities and methods, or approaches, to improve the outreach to these entities and the effectiveness of TA delivery in rural America?

Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities

Over the past few years there have been significant changes to the resources available for the rural technical assistance delivery system. HUD has introduced the Community Compass (formerly OneCPD) system of technical assistance, and Congress has required new competitions for Rural Capacity Building and NAHASDA TA funding. In addition, USDA is still considering the utility of the intermediaries in the Section 502 packaging demonstration, and planning for a community facilities support system. These changes have meant that the intermediaries and other TA providers are often trying to suggest new strategies to the funding agencies in order to enhance their competitiveness, rather than pursuing outreach and TA practices that have been successful in the past.

While some federal initiatives have focused on providing technical assistance to rural and tribal communities, the approach has not been well synchronized. Rural and tribal communities generally must find and request TA themselves. Much of the available TA is provided through programs that are ‘siloed’, not coordinated. In addition – aside from the former Rural Housing and Economic Development and Rural Innovation Fund, Rural Capacity Building TA, and NAHASDA TA – HUD-funded TA is most often delivered to formula grantees. Assistance from USDA is also requested through specific programs such as Self-Help Technical and Management Assistance, and not all USDA programs have a TA component.

Given the vast number of rural and tribal entities and the lack of direct federal department/agency contact with many smaller communities, mechanisms are needed to allow them to identify and secure technical resources in the most appropriate manner for them. TA providers are interested in prioritizing the greatest needs of rural and tribal communities and identifying the best methods of delivering that assistance to ensure that the array of federal technical resources are directly available to the local jurisdictions, organizations, businesses, and families.

Discussion Questions
  • What technical assistance services do rural housing and community development organizations need to be more productive?
  • What are the best ways to inform local rural organizations about available TA?
  • What are the challenges facing local and tribal governments in trying to manage federal funds and design effective strategies for community development?
  • What support do the state grantees, including PJs, need to be more effective at administering federal pass through funds and coordinating with federal agencies to maximize impact?
  • What processes should be used to identify needs at the local level in rural America?
  • Are there changes federal departments/agencies should consider making to their system of identifying TA needs and allocating resources to local rural and tribal efforts?