Prevention or Cure - Leaders Decide

Posted: Updated:

The overcrowding of jails and the need to address social problems are public and nonprofit conversations mirrored in nearly every county in which I consult. Ironically, in those same communities, countless nonprofits can help, and yet they continue to bear local funding cuts and denied new requests. Why?

We should consider nurturing the countless nonprofits that are focusing on preventative programs. Benjamin Franklin said "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." However, it appears that many in leadership positions have forgotten that cliché or lost faith in its validity. Some feel it's not the role of public entities to help fund the work of nonprofits, but rather donors in the private sector. Wise investments can minimize public sector expense. In many of these counties, there's just not the right dialogue taking place to address issues, or when the most valuable conversations take place, they do so in silos. The prevention-to-cure link isn’t being made or considered.

A nonprofit agency shared the story of their staff being brought to tears when a former service recipient returned to thank them more than a decade later.  Earlier in life, that service recipient had been on a path that placed them at the cusp of the juvenile justice system. However, the staff and leadership at the agency mentored them, provided them programming and advice to right their course, and more. That same service recipient returned, now a self-supporting, tax-paying adult, stating they were serving in the military and they were recently accepted into medical school.  They testified that neither would have happened, had the agency not set them straight and provided the support they needed. Imagine what the public-sector expenses would have been, had a nonprofit not intervened? There are certainly thousands more of these stories across the Nation and changing lives should be what social service is all about.

It’s obvious local communities struggle with how to pay for multi-million-dollar projects, be it a jail, halfway house, transitional center, transportation, etc.  Each day, another City or County is seeking to increase taxes to implement a “pound of cure.” To advance the supposed cure, they frequently cut the “ounce of prevention,” which proves to be short-sighted.  So where is the disconnect?  I’d suggest five main concerns and concepts need to be addressed to ensure increased value and return on investment for all parties.

Constructive Dialogue – Communities need to broaden their approach to solving these issues and bring in multiple segments of the community to discuss options, concerns, ideas, and dreams.  They may find surprising resources locally to help offer solutions that have never been on the radar.  This dialogue also helps to build trust between the leaders and the agencies.

Agreement on Outcomes -  Expected outcomes are not communicated to the nonprofit, yet leaders will criticize nonprofits because they “didn’t ________” (fill in the blank) or withhold funding because of “x.”  Open lines of communication need to be established for the benefit of the community and to clarify expectations relative to outcomes.

Requests for Proposals – The problems are obvious, but the solutions are not.  Once the dialogue has led the community to an accurate assessment of the situation, and there is an agreement on desired outcomes, the community can offer an RFP (Request for Proposal) encouraging creative and practical solutions to the identified problem.  It seems rather basic, because governmental bodies practice this for other investments, so why not these?  In their study, "Demonstrating the Value of Social Service Programs: A Simplified Approach to Calculating Return on Investment," authors Baum, Gluck Smoot and Wubbenhorst, suggest the use of a PROI (Program Return on Investment) form, that calculates and monetizes returns.  I’d suggest this valuable tool be a required part of the submitted proposal.

Dedicated Prevention Funding –Funding must be dedicated to the prevention side of social problems for communities to achieve success.  Leaders must recognize that this is a longer-term solution that can run concurrently with their commitment to solving the current crisis.  If they do not dedicate this funding, they will be mired in the crisis mode, and the cycle will continue to repeat itself into future generations.  Efforts of nonprofits can provide intangible benefits that supplant other expenditures resulting from inaction.  For example, funding for transportation may keep the population employed, adding to the tax base and lowering the need for benefit programs.

Move from "Doing" to "Did" – Nonprofits need to become more adept at developing requests, less based on “they are doing” to “what they did.”  The difference?  The latter is more outcomes focused, more statistical, more personal, more relatable and more businesslike.  They need to educate leaders, show how they have made a difference and how they will provide a valuable return on the investment – which relates to the PROI mentioned previously.

In the end, it’s time for both sides to become more future-focused and realize some short-term pain for long-term gain.  Instead of the nonprofits and their potential funders widening the divide and “wonder” that grows between them, it’s time to get together and create a new future with more teamwork, more accountability, and impact.

David Fry is president of Effective Advancement Strategies.

  • Perspectives

    • Seven Steps to Overcome Your Fear of Writing

      "I hate to write!" While that phrase is music to my ears, because it ensures my income will persist, it also saddens me. Far too many people dislike writing, largely because they’re intimidated by the process of knitting words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs. Nearly everyone needs to write from time to time, and the ability to assemble words in a coherent way can impact your success. Whether you have to write reports, proposals, memos, or even emails...
    More

Subscribe

Name:
Company Name:
Email:
Confirm Email:
HTML
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections
INPower
Subscribe
Unsubscribe

Events



  • Most Popular Stories

    • Hoosier Companies Among 'Most Admired'

      Two Indiana companies are included in Fortune's 2019 list of the "World's Most Admired Companies." The list was determined by a survey of nearly 4,000 executives, directors and analysts who rated companies in their own industries based on criteria such as investment value, quality of management and ability to attract talent.

    • Books & Brews Acquires Flat12 Bierwerks

      Indianapolis-based Books & Brews has announced its acquisition of Flat12 Bierwerks, also based in Indy. Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed, however Books & Brews says it will continue to operate Flat12 under the same brand name. The acquisition is a continuation of an existing partnership between the two entities. Books & Brews says Flat12 has been a brewery partner for the past two years, brewing all of B&B's flagship and seasonal beers.

    • Hoosier Companies Among 'Best and Brightest'

      Two Indiana companies are among more than 500 selected by the National Association for Business Resources as the 2018 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in the Nation. The winners were chosen by an independent research firm from more than 2,400 nominations.

    • Indiana Liquor Group to Buy Save-On Liquor Chain

      Indiana Liquor Group LLC will work with the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission this week for final approval of its purchase of Save-On Liquor stores. Our partners at The Herald Bulletin report Phillip E. Miller agreed to sell the 31-location package store chain to ILG last month. 

    • Cook: Location, Funding Among Eleven Park Questions

      Several ambitious economic development projects are already taking center stage this year, particularly in central Indiana. Indianapolis-based KSM Location Advisors Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook and President Katie Culp say efforts like Eleven Park, which would include a new stadium for the Indy Eleven soccer team, and a potential casino in downtown Indianapolis are among the key projects being talked about. On the (i) on Economic Development segment on Inside INdiana Business...