Friday, January 12, 2007

A 15 year worry.....

The family is on the road again. Our kids are having their second annual MLK weekend reunion this year in Denver, so two of the three fly today. My wife and I head over to Indiana (hopefully, weather allowing) for a weekend away in Brown County.

Next week brings a trip to Florida for me--37 hour door to door round trip to the Keys to do a three hour pair of speeches. Make any sense to you? The group is NAPSEC, one that I worked with for many years and it will be nice to see the membership again. It's been perhaps seven years since I spoke to them. At NAPSEC, and again the following week in Colorado, my topic is Social Entrepreneurship. It's been six weeks since I've traveled at all, and I'm ready.

The time "off" has given me time to think about the structure of our sector. I read quite a bit over the break about the finances of the nonprofit sector, and the trends, and our current business model seems unsustainable to me--if you think 10-15 years.

I'm guessing that push is going to come to shove soon, and that we'll have to start dealing with more and more of our services being provided by volunteers, and less and less by professional staff. Some parts of the sector (places of worship, art organizations, etc.) already have a large share of their FTE's in the form of volunteers, but I'm talking about human services, the big dogs of both nonprofit employment (see the post of two days ago) and money.

Remember that most fire-fighters in this country are volunteers, and so are about 50% of the EMT's. So, life and death issues CAN be provided by volunteers. The questions, of course, are many. In areas where "certification" or "licensure" is required, will volunteers be available to do that? What about our volunteer management skills? Are those up to a huge change in demand?
And funders? Will they CUT funding even more if we have less paid staff?
This kind of stuff keeps me up at night.

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