Update from YNPN National on Sustainability
To my chapter leader colleagues and friends --
I recently wrote to share with you some disappointing and important news. Last month we were notified at YNPN National that one of our major grants would not be renewed. We are proud of the work we did in 2017 to fulfill this grant and received very positive feedback from the funder on what we achieved; however, the funder is taking the portfolio in a different direction and YNPN is no longer a fit for what they hope to achieve with this particular fund.
This grant made up approximately 25% of our projected revenue for 2018 and was expected at a time that was critical for our cash flow. The impact of the loss of this funding is dire and cannot be overstated.
We are sharing this news with you both because we strive to be transparent in our operations and also because the sustainability of YNPN National is critical to the effectiveness of our entire network and what we’re able to achieve together. Not only do we want to keep you informed, we also want to engage you in helping to determine how we move forward together.
I understand there may be some urgent questions that come to mind after receiving this news and I’ve answered some of them below.
Will YNPN National have to close?
The board, staff, and I are doing everything in our power to prevent that from happening, but that is a very real possibility with a revenue loss this significant and sudden. We have drastically cut expenses and are speaking with funders about bridge grants as well as solidifying other grant renewals and seeking new sources of funding. We have received some initial positive signs of support and I’m optimistic that we will be able to continue operations at a basic level until we can get back to financial stability.
We have the resources currently to continue operations through August and we will continue to keep the network updated on our fundraising progress via the chapter leader newsletter and Chapter Congress.
Does this mean the conference is cancelled?
No, we will still have a conference in 2018! The conference is an incredibly valuable space for us to have critical conversations about the future of our network, including a previously planned but now urgent conversation about how we work together to ensure that our network is financially sustainable for the long-term.
It is vital that we convene together as a team to discuss the future of YNPN National and our network. If you haven’t yet made your plans to join us in Indianapolis this year, you can find information on conference registration and travel here.
How can chapters and chapter leaders help?
We are immediately forming two Think Tank working groups that I’ll be describing in more detail below. If you are able to contribute to one of these groups, please sign up to be involved! We don’t just value the chapter leader perspective -- we need chapter input to develop long-term solutions to these financial and capacity challenges.
If you are able to make a personal gift to support the work of YNPN National, it will have a significant impact now! Every bit of support is meaningful and helps build up our operating support dollars.
How do we get out of this situation and avoid ending up here again?
Grant funding is an important source of revenue for most nonprofits, including YNPN. However, being overly reliant on grant funding leaves us vulnerable to shifts in funder priorities and strategy, as has happened here. Getting to a place of long-term sustainability and stability for our network will require cultivating multiple independent sources of revenue, reducing our dependence on grants, and possibly making changes to YNPN National’s operating model.
We are forming two Think Tanks to address these issues.
Financial Sustainability: This group will evaluate and strategize for the financial sustainability of the network with a particular emphasis on how we can secure resources outside of grant funding. Topics will include non-traditional sources of revenue and earned income, evaluating the network investment fee, National Conference structure & pricing, and individual giving from members. If interested in participating in this think tank, reach out to Jeff Key at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prioritizing the Work of YNPN National: This Think Tank will examine the operational sustainability of YNPN National and consider how to prioritize the work of the network if we are not able to significantly improve our financial situation. Essentially, this Think Tank will be considering what happens if YNPN National is not able to raise funds for additional staff or to maintain the current staff. If interested in this think tank, reach out to Chapter Support Coordinator Bradley Fisher at email@example.com.
These groups will meet four times in June and July and prepare recommendations to be discussed at the National Conference and in a follow-up call for those who are not able to attend the conference. The Think Tanks will include chapter leaders, National Board members, and staff. Please get in touch by June 1 if you’re interested in participating in one of these Think Tanks.
How do we talk about this with our members?
While we are disappointed to be in this position, we are not alone: many small nonprofit organizations, particularly those working at the grassroots, struggle to build the capacity necessary to become less vulnerable to dramatic changes in grant funding. There has been no mismanagement and nothing to hide or be embarrassed about. We encourage you to be transparent with your local members because they are a critical part of this network’s success as well and we want to honor the contributions they can make as engaged and informed stakeholders.
YNPN has been in existence for 21 years and has grown and evolved from a single chapter in a single city to a network of more than 40 chapters and 50,000 members. Over those decades we’ve been through many challenges and changes. While this is a particularly big challenge, I know we are a big team who has what it takes to turn this situation into an opportunity to set ourselves up for sustainability and success.
We are powerful, resilient, and resourceful. I have no doubt that our network will come out on the other side of this and stronger for it. I look forward to talking more through our working groups, and at the National Conference in July.
Onward; the sector needs us!