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How Community Organisations and Non-Profits can be efficient with money

For most community organisations and non-profits, the gap they face everyday between their vision and their reach is limited only by the amount of money at their disposal. It’s common, especially for smaller organisations, to be so caught up in performing the vital work they do in their community that there is a shortage of time and experience left to manage their money efficiently.

We’d love to help all organisations, big and small, make the gap between vision and reality smaller, so we’ve put together our top tips for community organisations and non-profits to make their money go further. Here’s how:

Downsize on office and supplies

Firstly, it’s probably worthwhile taking a look at the way your non-profit runs day to day. Doing an audit on the costs associated with running your organisation is a great starting point – this includes bricks-and-mortar real estate costs, utility costs like power, phone and data and even things like office stationery.

In 2020 and into 2021, many businesses and non-profits have proven they are able to run effectively and more efficiently utilising remote working conditions. This is largely as a result of the pandemic, but if you’re able to identify ways to cut costs by switching to a flexible working plan that allows employees to split between home and the office, you may find that you’re able to save on costs and can even look at shifting operations to a smaller, more affordable office space.

Many non-profits have also taken up the option of sharing office-spaces with other organisations, so a review of your current running costs could be worthwhile in terms of potential savings.

Use tax breaks available and register with ACNC

It might seem like a no-brainer, but for many community organisations or non-profits just starting out, but knowing what tax benefits your organisation is entitled to can make a big difference to your bottom line.

By successfully registering with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, your organisation will be able to apply for an income tax exemption, which, if endorsed means that you will not have to pay income tax on any income earned.

Be sure to check the ACNC website for full information on eligibility and see whether your organisation fits the criteria.

Recruit smarter

Being under-resourced is a common issue faced by non-profits. Often, the majority of employees have skill-sets aligned with the core body of work being conducted to benefit the community. But instead of asking employees to wear too many hats and take on responsibilities that are outside their wheelhouse, it’s possible to recruit smarter, save money and reduce burn-out.

Some roles can and should be outsourced to contract workers or interns with specialised skills. For example, if your organisation requires digital marketing help to promote a fundraising campaign, allocate a set budget to on-board the skills of a contract worker for the campaign period, or an intern looking to complete course credits. This will help to reduce workload and stress on existing employees, will save you money, and will ensure a better outcome of your campaign.

What’s more, if your cause is something people can easily identify with, recruiting volunteers to help with certain aspects of your organisation’s workload is a sure-fire way to improve efficiency and the effectiveness of your work.

Consistently evaluate program expenses

Something that is common practice in the world of business and government but often overlooked by non-profits is the process of regular operational reviews. Scheduling multiple check-ins to examine organisational expenses and your budget each financial year can help you identify and eliminate unnecessary costs.

During these check-ins, you should be asking yourself as an organisation: Does it make sense to keep performing this activity? What would happen if we were to stop doing it? Do the benefits of continuing this activity outweigh the costs? Can this activity be performed differently in order to save money?

Buy second-hand or accept donations

It’s not commonly known that many large for-profit organisations and businesses will regularly donate furniture or technology supplies that are still in perfect working condition. This may be a way for your organisation to make some serious cost-savings. Try reaching out to businesses near you, and by fostering a relationship you may find them open to making regular donations.

The best thing about this is that you’re not only able to save money – you’re effectively reducing environmental impact through unnecessary waste.

If you’re unable to locate any nearby businesses willing to play ball, then you should definitely consider finding a decent second-hand office supplier to see if you can still save on what you need.

Assess vendors often

Another common trap that non-profits can fall into is single-sourcing vendors and not conducting regular vendor cost reviews. Single sourcing means relying on one vendor for supplying more than one service or product. While this may seem handy in that this practice can save much needed time, it usually means you aren’t regularly shopping around and comparing prices to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

Avoid the mindset of “this is the way it has always been” and be sure to conduct quarterly or half-yearly reviews of all vendor relationships, and arm yourself with some competitor prices to keep your current vendor honest.

Greater Bank

Retain your donors

Again, for larger non-profits, the concept of donor retention will be nothing new. It’s the practice of nurturing relationships with donors big and small, to keep them donating as much as they can as often as they can, for as long as they can.

Losing donors costs money – plain and simple. Replenishing your coffers with funds you would have gained through lost donors is expensive, as you effectively have to raise the effectiveness and total goal amount of your fundraising efforts, putting additional stress on your organisation.

If the on-boarding of a donor relationship specialist is outside your budget, you should at least consider regularly communicating with donors via their channel of choice – whether that’s email, newsletter, etc. Keeping donors informed on your efforts and wins, and how their funds are being utilised can go a long way to making them feel valued and continuing to donate.

Leverage online resources

There is a veritable mass of free or affordable online resources out there, and using these can significantly reduce your non-profit’s costs while making you more effective as an organisation. Some examples to look into are:

  • Google for non-profits – this fantastic suite of products available for free to non-profits allows access to email, storage, surveys and video conferencing.
  • Email marketing tools – need to communicate to your donor database regularly? Search for free or cheap email tools that offer flexible templates so you can customise your comms to suit your brand.
  • Creative tools – free tools are a google search away that allow you to quickly re-size and personalise visual content for social media or marketing collateral.
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