Institute Helps Nonprofits Cope in Tough Times

Release Date: December 8, 2005 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- With local budget woes cutting, and in some cases eliminating, funding to local public and nonprofit agencies, a program offered by the School of Social Work is providing training to help strengthen the planning and management skills of their staffs.

Since 2001, UB's Institute for Nonprofit Agencies has worked with more than 100 not-for-profit and public agencies from throughout the region, says Kathleen Kost, associate professor of social work and director of the institute.

The institute offers certificate programs in administrative management and financial management. Programs are composed of four two-day competency-based workshops, with costs ranging from $199 for a single workshop to $700 for the entire four-workshop series.

Scholarships are available to paid staff of not-for-profit organizations in Erie and Niagara counties through The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation.

"The institute is all about bringing in best practices to improve the infrastructure of public and private organizations," Kost said.

Kevin Horrigan, director of public affairs at People Inc., is an enthusiastic alumnus of the administrative management program. A former liaison to nonprofits in the City of Buffalo for Mayor Anthony Masiello, he also is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit Agencies advisory board.

"This is a great resource for the nonprofit community and it's just great that the university offers this program," Horrigan said. "There have been so many budget cuts to nonprofits. This program enables you to look at ways to collaborate with peers and find creative ways to go after funding.

"This program is critically important because even during these times of change, services still are needed."

Both the administrative management and financial management programs are designed for human-service supervisors, organization board members and individuals interested in learning enhanced skills in financial and administrative management.

Workshops offered through the administrative management certificate program include strategic planning, inspiring leadership, human resources and effective communication in team building.

The financial management certificate program offers workshops in managerial accounting, fund raising, grant writing and program evaluation.

Participants in the programs receive homework and each workshop has a recommended text.

In both programs, the two-day workshops are followed by a half-day roundtable to discuss application of workshop material to the roles of board members and agency administrators, with mandatory attendance for certificate participants.

The half-day roundtables also look at ethical issues impacting organizational management, Kost said.

"We want to help participants prepare for the ethical dilemmas a nonprofit leader or board member might face," she said. "Questions such as 'How do you restructure an organization?' or 'Have you planned adequately for groups that no longer will be covered by your services?'" Other issues include ethical issues of accounting and conflicts of interest.

Janice Gentz, executive director of the CHC Learning Center, a small school program for developmentally disabled children from birth through age 21, has completed the administrative management certificate program and currently is enrolled in the financial management program.

She has high praise for the Institute for Nonprofit Agencies, not only for the knowledge she has gained, but for the contacts she has made.

"It was very inspiring to be connected to people doing similar kinds of work," she said. "It was very good for the heart to hear about what is being done out in the community."

She called the quality of the instructors "wonderful," and the homework assignments "applicable and worthwhile." Especially useful, Gentz said, were the techniques she learned regarding human-resource and personnel issues.

But her biggest surprise came during a workshop on grant writing.

"I have never been involved in grant writing or even read a grant and it was an area I thought we ought to pursue more. I was surprised to learn that only 10 percent of grant applications are funded, and what a huge commitment grant writing is in terms of time and energy."

Robert Chapman, an addictions counselor with Stutzman ATC, found the program "very beneficial," particularly for what he learned about the structure of large organizations and communication.

"Going through the training helped me understand the dynamics of change agents and working with people," he said. "It really helped me to think about how to develop effective programs and how to incorporate other people and utilize their strengths."

Evaluation is an important component of the institute's work, in terms of both how effective it is in meeting clients' needs and how well clients are able to apply what they've learned back at their agency.

To support effective evaluation, the School of Social Work this semester has hired Mansoor Kazi, research associate professor and director of the school's Program Evaluation Center, a component of the Institute for Nonprofit Agencies.

Kazi will be working with client agencies to help them bring program evaluation into what they do on a day-to-day basis, thereby improving both agency practices and infrastructure.

Initially, programs offered by the Institute for Nonprofit Agencies were only three hours long, Kost said, "but we wanted to provide something that would have sustained impact." Workshops now are structured so that participants can take what they have learned back to their organization and teach it to others.

The Institute for Nonprofit Agencies' programs are open to all organizations that need training, Kost says.

"We've got a model that really works for our community."

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