Ahead of the Curve Campaign

The Ahead of the Curve Initiative


Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) highlighted the most significant trend in the nonprofit sector today—limited resources –in a recent national study of philanthropic practice. They found that “nonprofits still don’t have the resources they need to respond to new opportunities, leadership transitions or changes in their environment.”

The ripple effect of the last six years of limited resources is taking its toll. Most charitable nonprofits have not had “slack” time or the financial luxury to invest in technology or leadership. And it’s rare to find a nonprofit leader who has enough hours in the day, enough well-informed and engaged board members or employees who are experienced and successful and generating the needed resources to meet the needs of their clients and communities.

The Opportunity

Along with the GEO trends, a study by Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), confirms the fact that basic needs in communities are rising. This means that demands on charitable nonprofits are steadily and significantly increasing – without the corresponding resources to relieve the pain in communities. The past six years of continuous strain on individual household incomes that started before the Great Recession, is now manifesting itself in many state government budgets falling short of cash.

  • Nonprofit Finance Fund’s 2014 State of the Sector Survey documented that – for the sixth year in a row – around three out of every four nonprofits (in 2014, 80% ) reported an increase in demands for their services.
  • And because all philanthropic giving by individuals, foundations, and corporations totals far less than money earned by nonprofits performing services for governments, the fact that demands for services are increasing but government dollars continue to be cut at all levels–federal, state, and local—further compounds the resource squeeze.

So how are nonprofits responding to the rising demands coupled with the resource squeeze? The strain on the social safety net means nonprofits need to cast a wide net for funding and do what our sector does best: try out new approaches (“innovate”) and increase efficiencies to soldier on as long as possible. But in doing so, resiliency may be an elusive goal for many nonprofits.

GEO’s report highlights that it is a challenge for nonprofit organizations to stay “Ahead of the Curve” and there is a great need right now for most nonprofits to take stock of the infrastructure and core capacities that make their nonprofit resilient and adaptable in times of financial strain!

The Ahead of the Curve Initiative – We Can Make It Work

The Support Center/Partnership in Philanthropy is proud of its history and accomplishments. We have dedicated ourselves to anticipating the future and working with our grantmaking and nonprofit partners to build practical systems that minimize risks to success and maximize opportunities for impact and sustainability.

We are currently engaged in a “capacity campaign”—an effort to raise funds that will afford us the opportunity to build a next generation of leadership supports for the social sector. Some of the efforts that we are currently undertaking include:

  • Working with organizations over a longer time horizon (e.g. multi-year partnerships) to build and implement long-term plans for organizational change;
  • Developing new assessment systems that help organizations to understand their own growth over time and an ability to benchmark with similar organizations;

  • Building organizations’ ability to tell the story of their outcomes and impact and connecting those organizations with “impact investors” and additional sources of funding;
  • Creating the space for organizations to explore new organizational forms ranging from shared services to mergers and alliances.

We Need Your Help

The Support Center has identified a goal of a one-time capital raise of $1,000,000 to enable us to develop these new initiatives in the next three years. The attractiveness of such an investment in the Support Center is that it helps to ensure an adequate “safety net” for all of the organizations that we rely upon to make our communities healthier, safer and more vibrant.

Why the Support Center|Partnership in Philanthropy

One of the first organizations to appreciate the growing leadership gap in the social sector, we committed ourselves to rapid, “just-in-time” professional development opportunities for all levels of leadership in the sector. Understanding the intense increases in competition, we were one of the first organizations to offer learning opportunities in areas such as branding and marketing, outcomes measurement, building the board of the future and understanding impact investment. More than 10,000 aspiring leaders have benefitted from our professional development sessions over the last decade.

In partnership with foundations and national partners, we propelled major changes in nonprofit succession planning and the management of executive transitions. In 2005, we launched our Executive Search & Transition Management (ESTM) practice, guiding nonprofits through perilous executive director/CEO transitions especially those of founding and long-term executives. This program was the first of its type in our area to help boards understand the benefits of interim leadership. We’ve trained a large cohort of interim executive directors having a major impact on our sector by reducing the risks of bad hires and increasing the likelihood of securing the next “right” leader for the organization.

More recently, in collaboration with our philanthropic and nonprofit partners, we invested in “Project Redesign” understanding that the sector would need to find new kinds of structures to further their missions in this challenging environment.

Throughout our history, we have worked to build responsive programs that are affordable and ensure broad access. By successfully raising additional funds and leveraging partnerships and collaboration we believe we can continue to help our nonprofit partners remain “ahead of the curve.”


[1] Excerpted from National Council of Nonprofits (website) – Trends to Watch


We work as a team within the Support Center, and in partnership with our clients, funders, and the nonprofit community at large.


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2010 Facts & Stats Grantmakers Services

12               Grantmaker Clients

350            Grantees Served

48               Pro Bono Grantmaker Panelists