Our center stage series is a wink to our roots (one of our first clients was the nationally-recognized Undermain Theatre) where we let a member of the #bthfamily take the spot light and share their story. This month, we are highlighting our Co-Founder, Larry Taylor. We asked him to share his experience working with federated nonprofits.
Tell us a little about yourself…
I’m a co-founder and Managing Partner at Beyond the Horizon (BTH). I have about 30 years of experience working in technology programs with large Enterprise and federated nonprofit customers, stretching from my previous corporate career, throughout my 12 years with BTH. I have always been interested in the overlooked aspects of digital transformation programs, and how to successfully work through them.
What is a federated nonprofit?
A federated nonprofit is a grouping of affiliates operating together under a common brand and mission. The affiliates are geographically dispersed, performing services locally, under the umbrella of a central organization.
What are the benefits of a federated structure?
The benefits of a federated structure fall into a few major categories:
- Localization: Affiliates have the presence and understanding to adapt to local variations of community composition, resources and needs that do exist
- Brand Presence: The affiliate can leverage a recognizable brand at a national or worldwide level, while extending brand recognition into their local communities
- Shared Resources & Economies of Scale: Every federated organization is different, but affiliates often leverage central resources & functions, shared data, and best practices to operate more effectively
- Political & Advocacy Strength: When applicable, coordinated advocacy at all local and national levels of engagement can be a powerful enabler for the mission
What are some unique challenges federated nonprofits face?
Federated nonprofits navigate a complex maze of challenges, both external and internal.
Externally, there is much discussion about emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (A.I.), and the need for every organization to have an intentional strategy and plan. Technology evolution has reached a generational inflection point, which creates significant opportunity and risk for every nonprofit organization. In the midst of this change, many nonprofits are grappling with dwindling revenues and rapidly changing constituencies, forcing them to constantly adapt their strategies and outreach.
Internally, federated nonprofits face a multitude of circumstances across affiliates, with wide variations of size, investment potential, data readiness and organizational capacity for change. This means that solutions should be adaptable and able to meet affiliates where they are today.
The nature of collective and independent governance could result in frameworks that move too slowly for the market dynamics that exist today. Many organizations are burdened by poor-quality data that hinders decision making, antiquated processes that stifle efficiency, and obsolete technology that can’t keep pace with modern demands. As a result, these nonprofits must undertake significant transformational efforts, balancing their mission-centric goals with the urgent need for operational rejuvenation.
How can those challenges be overcome?
There are many factors to consider, both tangible and intangible. Tangible aspects deal with shared goals and objectives, logically sequenced program phases, how we make decisions, and how we secure success along the way to build momentum and support across the federation.
It’s the intangible aspects that can be most confounding, due to unique political and cultural aspects that exist with any large and complex organization. Affiliates within a federation are very likely beginning their journey at different starting points. Some have budget capacity, while others do not. Some may have clean legacy data, while others do not. Some may have the organizational capacity to adopt new platforms while others need more help.
The most important aspect is to utilize an approach that deals not only with the technical & operational aspects of a program, but also acknowledges and accommodates the human dimension of change. This sounds simple, but in a federation, the human dimension is amplified across many, independently governed organizations. These are the most often overlooked or underestimated aspects of program execution.
When you think of your desired end-state, whether it be operational process automation & efficiency, reimagined constituent experiences and/or measurable improvements in impact, it’s crucial to establish the practical steps to take along the way.
Can you share any success stories?
Yes, our work with United Way comes to mind. United Way has locations all over the world managing complex workplace fundraising campaigns. The limitations of legacy platforms have caused United Ways to improvise on business processes while manually managing multiple data silos that inhibit the development of new constituent experiences.
BTH developed a tailored package for United Way. This package, called BTH Empower Pack, is built on the industry-leading Salesforce platform for nonprofits. Empower Pack accommodates the complex business process requirements unique to United Way, while also leveraging all of the capabilities of the Salesforce platform for constituent personalization & engagement, major gift prospecting and more. On the mission side, United Ways are rapidly evolving program management to improve impact in communities all over the world.