NFF's Community Resilience Fund was launched to provide New York City service providers with advice and money to help them survive and thrive in a constantly changing environment. As part of the our series of blogs about the Community Resilience Fund, in this post we share Part 1 of the story the New York City Anti-Violence Project (“AVP”) as it uses a Change Capital grant secure through the initiative to revamp its business for the benefit of its clients. We consider: What challenges did AVP face? What was AVP's plan for change? How did the Change Capital Grant help position its business model toward greater sustainability? Our hope is that this post and others in the series provide a look at how change capital and strategic investments of expertise and resources can begin to repair a fraying social safety net and inspire positive organizational and social change.
The New York City Anti-Violence Project (“AVP”) is an advocacy and social service organization with a mission “to empower lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education, and to support survivors through counseling and advocacy.” In 2013, AVP was selected as one of 17 organizations participating in the Community Resilience Fund (CRF), a $3.5 million initiative designed to strengthen nonprofits’ ability to respond to an environment of constant change. Under CRF, AVP received approximately 9 months of customized advisory services from NFF and a Change Capital grant of $250,000.
AVP faced a number of financial challenges, including a lack of clarity around the true cost of running its programs, which resulted in operational deficits. AVP also had very limited access to flexible funds or financial resources. This lack of clarity about program economics, coupled with a lack of access to flexible resources, made it difficult for AVP reliably cover its operating costs, manage cash flow or make the upfront investments (including strategic hires) that are needed to pursue new strategies.
In response to this risky operating reality, AVP’s Executive Director, Sharon Stapel, and CFO, Carla Smith, focused on securing new grants and contracts. Unfortunately, as is often the case in our sector, many of these program-related funding opportunities also required AVP to take on new expenses. As a result, while new money was coming in the door and the organization was growing its programmatic reach, the strategy of securing more grants didn’t help AVP mitigate the deficits it was generating.