But with government and private funding increasingly hard to come by, they have to think of themselves as businesses, said Nancy L. Mangini, a consultant to Thrive, the alliance of nonprofits in San Mateo County.
"Nonprofits are all businesses, but they operate for the benefit of the general public and not for shareholders," Mangini said.
Linda Asbury, president of the San Mateo Area Chamber of Commerce, said a shift in thinking is just beginning to happen among nonprofits. Two weeks ago, Asbury sat on a panel at a conference Thrive organized with its members and prominent business leaders to discuss how to partner more effectively.
Cindy Holzman, executive director of Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disaster of San Mateo County (CARD), said Thrive's conference two weeks ago helped her as she searches for ways to save the group from going out of business once itsfrom Local 1
funding runs out in the fall.
Thrive, a kind of chamber of commerce for roughly 100 nonprofits, is teaching these organizations that in order to survive, they must have a business and marketing plan and deliver more bang for the buck to sponsors.
"Businesses want their dollars to be well spent and they want proper recognition," Asbury said.
The county's unusually large
number of nonprofits more than 375 that deal with human services, the environment, welfare and education, according
Such organizations as Families on Track, a nonprofit that provided academic enrichment in South San Francisco, closed this spring and is at risk of going under. Holzman of CARD hopes her group doesn't meet the same fate. Since it started 1996, Card has held seminars on creating disaster plans for fires, earthquakes, terrorist attacks and other emergencies for more than 400 nonprofits.
CARD's $40,000 annual budget pays Holzman part-time and covers operating expenses. The small family foundation grant that primarily funded CARD has ended, and without new funding, CARD likely will close in the fall.
Patricia Black, the nonprofit coordinator for San Mateo County, said fewer nonprofits are going under compared with a few years ago, but they must be creative to survive.
"We have to become smart spenders," Black said.
ON THE WEB: www.thrivealliance.org and www.preparenow.org/smcard.html
Staff writer Emily Fancher can be reached at (650) 306-2428 or email@example.com.