Thursday, March 17, 2016

Big Changes Start With Small Steps

A special message from Charities Review Council's Executive Director, Kris Kewitsch. 

You've heard it said, change is the only constant and, like many of our nonprofit partners, we're an example of that.

A community thrives when its leaders fail forward, take risks, elevate solutions and share lessons broadly in the community. At Charities Review Council, we're leading by example, sharing organizational developments that will affect us both internally and externally, in hopes that it will cultivate trust, transparency and open dialogue about what it means to be a strong nonprofit.

True transparency means being willing to share openly. So here it goes...

Late last year, after the annual plan and budget had been finalized, Charities Review Council received word that expected funding would not materialize. Although we had planned to shift funding from operating support to fee for service, we hadn't planned for the possibility of no funding at all. This long-time support accounted for roughly 18% of our total budget. As a small nonprofit, (5 FTE, approx. $650,000 budget) news like this prompts many questions and tough decisions around programming, staffing structure, and more.

Big changes start with small steps. 

At Charities Review Council, we're pulling it all apart in order to put it back together in a way that makes sense. It hasn't been easy and there are still a few moving parts, but isn't that the beauty of change? Reimagining what has always been, in order to make room for what's to come? We like to think so, but for now, we'll focus on and share with you what we do know.

Our core work will remain the same; helping donors make smart giving decisions to strong nonprofits. 

By promoting nonprofit accountability and transparency with our capacity building tool, the Accountability Wizard®, and using our Accountability Standards® as a framework for building trusting, productive donor-nonprofit relationships, we'll continue to foster a culture of philanthropy that leads to stronger communities.

With support from our amazing board and staff, we’ve re-worked our annual plan, making tough decisions around programmatic activities like, Grow the Good, Open Source Brainstorm Labs, and more. This includes changes to our Annual Forum. We will not be hosting a traditional annual forum experience in 2016. Instead, we’ll be planning for an event in early 2017. Stay tuned for more details!

We’ve also made changes to our staffing model, including moving two previously full-time staff members to project based consulting work. Along with that, we are currently looking to relocate the Council offices, and are in the midst of taking tours in the neighborhood for a space that fits our programmatic needs and budget.

Despite these changes, we’re still committed to maintaining and growing the value of our Meets Standards® Seal.

Last year, we saw a 20% increase in the number of new nonprofits engaged in the Accountability Wizard® review process and we exceeded our renewal goal with 92% of our nonprofit partners renewing their accounts in 2015. Although temporarily lean, we’re still accomplishing great work. We look forward to engaging new nonprofits and growing our list of reviewed organizations in 2016.

As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” 

As an organization, we continue to take steps forward in our strategy of supporting authentic and engaged relationships between smart donors and strong, accountable nonprofits.

We thank you for taking the journey with us.

In partnership,

Kris Kewitsch & the Charities Review Council team

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