May 8, 2012; Source: Carroll County Times

Doug Howard, president of the Carroll County Board of Commissioners in Maryland, announced the formation of a Nonprofit Work Group. Composed of leaders from several nonprofit organizations in the area, the work group is charged with developing best management practices for struggling nonprofit organizations. In Carroll County, funding from the state and individual donors is down and many of the local nonprofits are suffering. The county’s budget for funding nonprofits providing human services is flat for 2013 and will be decreased by five percent each year after that through 2018.

“If we are going to continue to have budget challenges, and we project that we will, then we have to find a way to make sure that [nonprofits’] ability to provide their services is less vulnerable,” said Howard.

The members of the Nonprofit Work Group are Cindy Parr of the Human Services Program of Carroll County Inc., George Perkins of Carroll County Food Sunday, Jolene Sullivan of the Carroll County Department of Citizen Services, Tammy Black of Access Carroll, and Lynn Davis of the Carroll County Youth Services Bureau. Howard singled out these leaders and their organizations for doing an “outstanding job of leveraging county money, finding alternative funding sources, streamlining their operations and coordinating with other agencies.”

Best practices for nonprofits shared by Work Group members include both the traditional and the innovative. Long-standing methods that were suggested by the group include supply management, adjusting hours of operation, staffing management and volunteer development, while other ideas, such as looking for alternative funding resources and learning to tell one’s story to new target audiences, may be new to some local nonprofits.

Cindy Parr of the Human Services Program of Carroll County Inc. emphasized the need for nonprofits to “mix things up,” as the Carroll County Times put it, and institute change. Nonprofits should track how each dollar is spent and be able to demonstrate that each dollar is used to its maximum effect, Parr said.

The formation of the county’s Nonprofit Work Group is a welcome change in an environment where municipalities are aggressively seeking additional revenue through payments in lieu of taxes from local nonprofits. The Carroll County approach instead recognizes nonprofits as valuable resources providing the services necessary for an increasing proportion of the county’s residents. It is good to see a local government deciding to do what it can to nurture those resources. –Terry Masters