Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Small non-profit thrives in a climate of limited government funding

After reading about global trends this week, I thought I would highlight the work of my system synthesis team’s client, the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation. YNDC is a new (started in 2009) and small (8 employees) non-profit, which clearly doesn’t have all the resources needed to analyze global trends. Yet its strategy is tied to emerging trends in the markets in which it operates – higher oil prices, less government grant money, increase in blighted city neighborhood land, and a lack of workers with skills. Maybe it was the bad luck of starting in 2009 at the lowest point in the recession, but YNDC has created an organization that works best in this new climate. YNDC has anticipated the need for local produce as rising oil prices potentially reduce affordability of fresh fruits and vegetables for the city’s residents.

YNDC is not doing this with government grant money. It has found support from private foundations, banks, the online fundraising site Kickstarter, and pro bono services of volunteers. In a newsletter I received today, YNDC listed 6 core funders and 23 additional investors. With increasing amounts of vacant land, YNDC has started a small grant competition for residents to do something creative with a plot of land. In addition, YNDC is rehabilitating and selling houses as well as starting an urban farm to train workers in an emerging industry.

Although it is unfortunate to see so many non-profits lose funding over the past few years, it seems the recession has done to the non-profit sector what it has also done to the private sector: the best survive. The non-profits who have survived the recession – and actually thrived - are those that have created strategies around this new climate.

Check out YNDC at yndc.org.

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