The more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. are an essential safety net for those in need. They care for the neglected, feed the hungry and find jobs for the unemployed. Unfortunately, many nonprofits struggle to survive, let alone thrive. According to Guidestar, half of all nonprofits are operating with less than one month’s cash reserves, and 7% to 8% are technically insolvent.
Urban legend holds if you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will leap out. But if the frog is placed into a pot of tepid water, and the temperature is slowly increased, it will acclimate until the water boils, cooking the frog.
Jack Eckerd, philanthropist and drugstore pioneer, founded Eckerd Connects in 1967 to give troubled youth a second chance. By 2007, the nonprofit ran 18 residential wilderness camps and served 9,500 youth annually. However, state juvenile justice agencies had begun referring fewer youth to the camps because of the arrival of lower-cost community-based services. As a result, Eckerd Connects became a teetering nonprofit using roughly $2.4 million a year from its endowment to offset operating expenses.
Eckerd Connects is an example of a nonprofit that was almost “cooked” but managed to escape the pot. It did so by adhering to the following principles:
Like all organizations, nonprofits must remain healthy and agile to fulfill their missions. For those struggling, this means embarking on a transformation journey. Hopefully, Eckerd Connects’ story can help fellow nonprofits deliver on the promise of change.