Facilitating long-term success
Nonprofit organizations must increasingly live with uncertain funding sources as grants from public and private sources becoming scarcer. It's part of the NeighborWorks mission to help our members stay viable, so they can continue to serve their communities. That's why, as a leader in the nonprofit housing field, we set out to explore the concept of "sustainable business"
—in which organizations earn an income through revenue-generating activities to advance their social missions. This is the focus of a special winter 2018 supplement of the Stanford Social Innovation Review
, presented by NeighborWorks America, which highlighted case studies of success and lessons learned.
Our work in this arena began in 2012, when NeighborWorks America launched our Sustainable Homeownership Project (SHP) with the support of Capital One. Network members who participated in the pilot achieved significant successes. Over the course of three years, they increased their average number of successful homebuyers by 64 percent, lowered their cost-per-customer by 43 percent and grew the expenses covered by earned revenue by 101 percent.
The pilot focused on homeownership-related services; however, the successes and lessons learned can be applied to various lines of business.
"[For organizations that participated in SHP], the social-enterprise transformation has translated into growth and excitement about the future," writes Rachel Mosher-Williams, senior director of learning and impact at Community Wealth Partners, a NeighborWorks network member in the supplement.
Helping organizations stay strong
Nonprofits need checkups just like people do. NeighborWorks organizational assessment
teams offer an objective, independent, unbiased review that helps nonprofits be more effective agents for change. The teams apply a methodical process, working closely with organizations to gather information about their governance, leadership, management, financial health, strategic planning, and policies and procedures.
Assessments, both initial and periodic, are required of all of our members
, but we also offer them for other nonprofits for a fee. A strong nonprofit sector is in the interests of everyone we serve. In fiscal year 2017, NeighborWorks conducted overall, organizational assessments of 184 network members and financial evaluations of all approximately 245. In addition, we reviewed nine nonmember nonprofits.
"The [NeighborWorks] assessment process made our entire staff and board reflect. The questions helped us to really see where we were and to take the information from the many lessons learned and use that to work smarter and more intentionally going forward," says Sally Mackin, executive director of Alabama's Woodlawn Foundation.
Training professionals to be at the top of their game
The backbone of the community development field are the professionals in the trenches, working day in and day out to serve their customers, clients and residents. To stay effective in their work, however, they need training and education. That's where NeighborWorks America excels.
In fiscal year 2017, the NeighborWorks America training division
awarded 17,020 certificates to participants from 2,395 organizations. We offered 106 place-based training courses
in 39 cities across 24 states, with sponsors ranging from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to lending institutions, to state housing finance agencies, to local governments. A particular area of growth during recent years, however, has been our online offerings
, allowing professionals to advance their skills at their own pace, anywhere, anytime, day or night. Sixty different courses were offered, which were taken by 3,705 individuals who then will serve their communities.