Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Outsource or Bust!

I just left an interesting discussion on this report. "Ready to Lead Next Generation Leaders Speak Out" is the culmination of a research project that seeks to understand -

1, how youngish nonprofit leaders feel about becoming EDs
2. why they DO and DO NOT want to take on these INTENSE jobs and
3. what EVERYONE else can do next.

Call me crazy, but who would want a job where they have to be the CEO, COO, CMO, CIO, and CFO all wrapped in one? Not me, that's for sure!

This is not news, but being a nonprofit ED is probably the most difficult jobs in our sector. (Maybe this is why it's mostly women who do it.) EDs are expected to do life changing work in organizations that are MOSTLY SMALL (77% have annual budgets under $1,000,000), MOSTLY POOR, and MOSTLY POORLY RUN. (Sorry if this is turning out to be a terrible rant!) If it weren't for the critical MISSION-work they're doing, I'd suggest that we all just close up shop.

But seriously. Something has to change or NO ONE will want to lead these vital organizations - we fondly call nonprofit. Assuming that foundations are not going to change their funding strategies overnight and assuming that 100 new donors are not going to come knocking at your door any time soon, I suggest we consider the merits of OUTSOURCING.

By outsourcing, I mean off-loading critical, yet burdensome, administrative tasks like IT management, payroll, accounting, membership management, etc. to the experts. My organization - NPower Greater DC Region - is trying to do this for technology, i.e. we are giving nonprofits an affordable, high-quality option for moving IT out-of-house.

I would love to know if/how any of you are using outsourcing as an option to improve efficiencies, control costs, improve quality, and most important STAY SANE Please write me!



Craig Weinrich said...

Our HR functions are outsourced, and we provide a good amount of benefits to our members that do a good deal of outsourcing (including NPower NY's IT Basic). It's rapidly becoming a buzzword for nonprofits and I've attended a recent workshop at Baruch College (NYC) on Outsourcing. Sharing services, another way of outsourcing, is also becoming a hot topic as well. Much like outsourcing a database to an ASP, though, nonprofits, who are used to doing everything themselves, will push against this trend due to losing control. Outsourcing of responsibilities should help ease the burden of doing everything on your own, however, will the boards understand this, when an ED says they want to spend $$ on sending work to a for-profit? How to we combat the misconceptions about trusting your data to someone else?

Jocelyn said...

Great comments, Craig! I agree that a key barrier to outsourcing for nonprofits is the MISperception that data will be stolen/lost/corrupted etc. Of course, accidents do happen - witness the Convio accident - but when you consider the fact that many nonprofits already face security risks by, for example, not backing up their data, or engaging in faulty backup processes, hosting data offsite is often a MUCH MORE secure solution.

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