Staying ahead of the curve while cutting back

A letter from the Executive Director

The Center for a New American Dream, like so many other non-profits, faces some stressful financial uncertainty as volatile markets and talk of total financial meltdown dominate the public discourse.  At the same time, we are perhaps, perfectly positioned.  As an organization that has long looked forward to the opportunity a new economy might offer, this may indeed be our moment to not only shine but more importantly, to offer a sense of hope to our supporters and those who might not yet know about us.

We certainly don’t have a crystal ball, but we do know that a downshift in our economy is an invitation to downshift our relationship to a consumer culture that has undermined what we find to be truly satisfying in life: fun, nature, family and community.  We’re not suggesting that this moment in history can be boiled down to a silver lining.  I suspect we all fear what our future holds.   We do hope that while we chart a new course, we look to those things that can offer a sense of joy and comfort rather than some of the material things we have been led to believe bring happiness and a sense of self worth.

Tightening our belts, pooling resources, circling the wagons and working together as we see what the future holds may in fact be a long-term solution to the crisis we’re in now. Just as families struggle for certainty and security, our organization has also had to look for creative ways to chart our course in an uncertain economic landscape.  New Dream is poised for even more growth. We simply must find new answers to the question "How do we seize the day?"

For our friends running mission based non-profits and values based companies, we wanted to share some of our top ten strategies for trimming costs while staying ahead of the curve:

  1. Audit all costs. Look at IT hosting, phone, long distance, auditing, conference calls and monthly services.  You might have seen monthly billing systems on an upswing over the past few years. Organizations have been a key target for companies that love fixed billing systems (guaranteed revenue).  You might find significant savings by eliminating services you don’t need or bundling services you absolutely need.

  2. Think before printing.  Consider offering publications, newsletters and other materials as downloadable pdf’s to save printing costs and the planet.

  3. Outsource some admin functions.  Consider outsourcing payroll and accounting if it frees up critical time for program work. These services can be quite cost effective and you don’t need to pay payroll taxes and other benefits for consultants.

  4. When you travel, bundle trips.  When we make necessary trips, we consider regional meetings and bundle them so we can save on travel expenses and get the most from our time away from the office.

  5. Take advantage of conference calls and webinars. While you can never replace the value of an in-person meeting – consider replacing some trips with more frequent calls and webinars to cut down on travel costs.

  6. Evaluate benefits.  It might be possible to offer better benefits for few dollars.  Shopping out health care and life insurance policies using a no-cost broker may save money and time if they help administer plans.

  7. Swap advertising.  Instead of paying for ad buys cut back and promote blog swaps and banner ad exchanges. It won’t account for all your traffic but might trim promotional expenses.

  8. Share expenses with sister organizations.  If you are running new programs, cut costs by sharing some expenses with organizations that are well aligned.

  9. Think potluck, not catering.  Instead of catering lunches, invite staff to bring their favorite dish. Increase the sense of community in your office.

  10. Involve the entire staff!  Having staff buy-in is critical.  Encourage everyone to get involved in expense management.

If you are a small business owner or non-profit manager, please send in your ideas and thoughts.  We would love to hear them.  We’re all doing great work, and we’re in it together!

Tags: Green office, Green workplace, Recession

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