Saturday, January 26, 2013
This article is in a Q&A format. We gained so much insight from it and we wanted to share it with you.
The following is an interview conducted by Peter Kramer, Senior Associate, Nonprofit Finance Fund, with Otis Bullock, Executive Director, Diversified Community Services. This is a cross-post from the Nonprofit Finance Fund blog. To read the original post, go here.
Illuminating Financial Dynamics for Improved Nonprofit Management: An Executive Director’s Experience
Otis Bullock tells me that it can be a challenge “to pair a great business model with great programming”. As the executive director of Diversified Community Services (“Diversified”), an organization that serves children and families in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Philadelphia, he knows firsthand the challenges of balancing the abundant needs of his community and constituents against the constraints of limited or uncertain public and private funding.
It’s a balancing act that requires the relentless stewardship of financial assets and continual monitoring of financial and program data. Otis knows well that sound financial management is grounded in access to reliable and timely information about his organization’s annual performance, revenue and expense dynamics, balance sheet health and liquidity. He has found Financial SCAN, a comprehensive new standard for financial health analysis, to be a helpful tool in his financial management toolbox.
Here, Otis shares his experience using financial data and analysis to guide his organization forward in challenging times.
PK: How does Diversified achieve its mission?
OB: Rooted in South Philadelphia and embracing the philosophy of the settlement house movement, our mission is to enable children, youth and families to realize their fullest potential and achieve self-sufficiency in safe neighborhoods. We’re recognized as the “go-to” organization in South Philadelphia because we bring people together regardless of religion, race, or ethnicity in a spirit of friendship to make our neighborhood a better place to live.
We believe in and act for economic and social justice so that people have the opportunities to advance economically, socially, educationally, and personally. Our community-building efforts promote physical, economic, and social development – improved housing and safety, as well as increased financial resources for individuals and the community as a whole.
PK: As the new executive director of Diversified, what are the biggest obstacles your organization faces in effectively connecting money and mission?
OB: Our biggest obstacle in effectively connecting money and mission is a past inability to pair a great business model with great programming. Diversified is very well known for its work in the Point Breeze community, especially our work in early childhood education and youth development. However, we have not yet figured out a way to make it profitable; mostly because the word “profits” was never in our vocabulary. As a result, great programs with tremendous impact on the community could become significant drains on the budget.
PK: That’s certainly a reality that most nonprofit leaders face. What financial planning and management strategies have you employed to overcome these obstacles?
OB: One of the things that we have done, with the help of NFF, is look at our budget more strategically. We’ve become more proactive about our financial and programmatic priorities. We started breaking our budget down by programs, instead of solely analyzing overall revenue vs. expenses. This allowed us to see the profitability of each program that we provide. If programs are losing money, we are forced to make tough strategic decisions as to whether we should keep them and whether they are core to our mission. Breaking the budget down this way forces us to make tough (but important) decisions to keep the budget in balance with our mission.
PK: You’ve recently used our Financial SCAN tool. How have you incorporated it into Diversified’s financial analyses and management?
OB: I used Financial SCAN to create a snapshot of Diversified’s fiscal health before I took my current position as executive director. I then used it to easily explain our fiscal health to the board. It can help an organization to think strategically about its finances, as well as programs. I’m able to compare my organization’s fiscal health to that of peer organizations. I’m able to use Financial SCAN to easily explain to my board and financial staff why profitability is important – even for “nonprofits”. My organization never thought about strategically and proactively planning its financial future until I presented them with Financial SCAN.
PK: You mentioned the peer analysis function of Financial SCAN. What have you learned about your financial condition relative to your peers’?
OB: Compared to my peers, I’ve found that my organization is in good shape. However, our position is very volatile. The report helps illustrate that 85% of our revenue comes from government sources, which leaves us in a very vulnerable position considering the constant threat of government budget cuts. Liquidity in our organization is pretty good. But in looking at our SCAN, I see that our organization does not have the means to weather another government budget-cutting season. For that reason, we’re becoming much more proactive.
PK: What can you tell us about your future plans? What’s next for Diversified?
OB: We have begun a complete assessment of our entire organization. As a part of our internal strategic planning process, our future fiscal health is front and center in those discussions. That hasn’t happened in the past. For many organizations, conversations about desired impact happen with little regard for past financial history and the budget. Financial SCAN has helped my board assess the business and financial implications of our future plans.
Friday, January 25, 2013
In Jamaica, English is our official language, however Patois (Patwah) is the way we express ourselves from the heart, it is what makes us unique.This is also true in every other country, we are unified by languages and dialects.
Languages and Dialects are as vital as air, it allows us to connect,express, feel, grow,evolve and transcend. It is what keeps us going. We are excited to hear a baby's first word, express sadness at the thought of someone saying their last, mesmerized by poets, and authors. Humbled by the innocence of words spoken in youth and the significance of those saying that are centuries old. "The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant." Maximilien Robespierre. Irrespective of the language these words spoken by Robespierre are translated in, the meaning is the same and the logic stand true.
In our quest to be different it is always helpful to be reminded that we are the same, we may not be able to understand every language or dialect spoken on our planet,but the emotions evoked by thoughts and words are universal.
Please follow us on twitter and check out today's tweets titled Patois 101 hashtag#chatbout @ www.twitter.com/RKMfoundation
Monday, January 21, 2013
The first time I heard the " I have a dream" speech I was maybe 9 years old. Growing up in the Caribbean, Jamaica to be specific I was aware of our national heroes and how essential they had been in our fight for freedom and independence but I was not aware of Martin Luther King. I could not have grasped the magnitude of that speech at such a tender age but I knew it was important based on the reaction of the adults around me years after this historic speech had been made.
Those words spoken on August 28,1963 in Washington DC will continue to speak volumes not just to the citizens of the United States of America but to the citizens of the world. We should all be seen as equals and continue to strive to realize the dream he so boldly declared!!!
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase"
" I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear"
" Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity"
Much love& Walk good!!!!!
I am so happy we are not alone in this, it would be really awkward !!!!!
Recently we had the pleasure of talking with Mrs. Teressine Barro, the principal of Niagara primary school located in the parish of St. James, Jamaica. The students of this school benefited from the efforts of our first toy drive. The conversation focused on the students and their reaction to the book and toy given to each child. Mrs. Barro spoke about the children's reaction weeks after we had visited."They were so excited and it gave them hope and a sense of ownership and belonging... for most of our students they have never had anything to call their own.... they were so happy and grateful for what the foundation did " Mrs.Barro continued to expressed her sincere gratitude to the foundation on behalf of her student and entire staff. She also shared with us the achievements of her 5th and 6th graders who ranked in the 87 percentile in Mathematics and 95th percentile in Reading. It was such a pleasure speaking with her and we left the conversation feeling more focused and renewed in our efforts to continue impacting the lives of children in rural Jamaica.
We chose to share this story with you because it meant so much to us. This is an opportunity for you to hear these testimonials and understand that your donations are helping us to impact lives in a positive way.
Much love & Walk good!!!!
We are officially 21 days into the new year and we can honestly say that we are off to a great start. The past year was filled with so many positive highlights and we want to keep that momentum going. We do believe that blogging is one of the best things we have done and will help us . Yes it is true, we havent done it as frequently as we should, but we do enjoy it!!!! One of our goals this year is to put more time and effort into blogging and keeping our growing family in the mix.
So lets play catch up:-)
1) Our 2nd annual toy and book drive is still in process and will continue until Thursday February 28,2013. The toys and books have been coming in and we are so thankful for your generosity
2).We have been in talks and close conversations with other organizations in trying to further our cause and take our foundation to the next level.
3) The deep desire to create a reading intiative has always at the core of our organization and we are working to create a program that will benefit school children ages 4-12 years in the rural Jamaica .
4)We are also in the process of developing a fundraising campaign to help with funding the organization efforts of collection and distribution of toys and books in the island of Jamaica.
5) Throw back Thursday is getting some attention as friends and the RKM family has been taking to twitter, emails and texts to share their favorite childhood memories.
These are our five main areas of focus at this time, we have a lot more to share. I hope we didnt overwhelm you , it is not our intention :-). As stated before we are off to a good start. Our aim is to continue working hard at trying to make a difference while impacting the lives of underprivileged children in rural Jamaica.
Much love & Walk good
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Happy New Year.....Happy 2013.....Happy Happy Happy!!!
2012 was an amazing year for RKM and we want to continue doing more. Continue to support us on this journey as we go through another wonderful year together. We have many things planned and we are so excited!!!!
We love you all!!! Happy New year