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Demographic Implications Affecting Nonprofits

By Gerald J. Archibald

Date:

“All of everybody never did anything.” — Wynton Marsalis

I write this column from my annual sojourn to the Chautauqua Institution near Jamestown [in far southwestern New York]. Each year for close to 150 years, Chautauqua has presented a nine-week summer program with a different theme for each week. The week I recently completed was entitled: “Exploring Race and Culture in America.” As described further below, the visit prompted my “theme” for this column: demographic implications affecting nonprofit organizations.

Chautauqua is a distinctly American institution, where some of the leading thinkers of our time come to share the concerns and issues of the real world. It’s a place where an abundance of music, dance, and the visual arts find their own forms of expression. Professional symphony, ballet, and opera companies, as well as a conservatory theater company, are in residence on the grounds every season. It is Chautauqua’s extraordinary mix that draws 142,000 people every summer. 

Since the 1880s, the Chautauqua platform for its summer season was known as a national forum for the open discussion of the latest thinking in politics, economics, international relations, literature, science, and religion. It’s truly an eclectic and ecumenical experience. If you haven’t been there, please go and find out more at chq.org. 

Having been to Chautauqua for most of the past 10 years for at least one week of its summer season, I have personally observed the impact of the changing demographics of its attendees. Much like fraternal organizations, churches, and the nation, Chautauqua is facing the challenges of an aging population demographic.

As I reflected on the visual imagery of a sea of gray hair, including my own, I thought of the following 10 topics as being important for nonprofit board and management team members. The topics below are also timely as many boards return from their annual summer hiatus and rapidly approach another calendar year-end. Think of the following as a checklist similar to all of the “Back to School To-Do Lists” that you recently completed. Just like Chautauqua’s stimulating and eclectic daily activities throughout its summer season, the following topics cover a wide range of areas that should be considered in your organization’s strategic-planning process.

1) New York’s aging demographic

In this decade, New York state has lost population in almost every county north of Westchester County. Population decline is projected to continue for the foreseeable future. The question to be answered is: What impact will this demographic trend have on your organization’s program services and charitable mission?

2) Medicaid eligibility

We now have about 7 million New York residents eligible for Medicaid, the program intended as a safety net for the poor and indigent among us. This means that about one of every three New Yorkers is close to or below the poverty thresholds established by the federal government. The question to be answered is: What are the strategic implications of increased poverty and the related demand for more services related to your nonprofit’s charitable mission?

3) Global Medicaid cap

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced that New York’s $79 billion of Medicaid spending has exceeded budget projections. In his quarterly budget update, he warned that hospitals, nursing homes, and other health-service providers could be facing Medicaid cuts, since the program was 8 percent over budget for the past fiscal year ending March 31, 2019. His announcement stated that “options to reduce Medicaid spending include the execution of statutory powers granted to the Commissioner of Health to limit spending, which include across the board rate reductions to healthcare providers and plans.” The question to be answered is: What impact will future Medicaid cuts have on your 2019 and future-year programs and services?

4) Effect on fundraising

Less government funding, which is not limited to just Medicaid, will result in an increasing need for other sources of revenue to support your programs and services. The question to be answered is: What strategic options can be implemented to generate increasing revenue from fundraising, grants, and non-traditional business activities?

5) Year-end charitable giving / planned giving

The stock market, with recent volatility, has increased from its lows in the past 12 months by 26 percent. The increase in wealth exceeds $5 trillion. The question to be answered is: How can we maximize tax-deductible charitable contributions from the top 10 percent of our constituent supporters between now and year-end, including planned and deferred giving options?

6) Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017

New York’s wealthy citizens have lost a significant amount of their itemized deductions as a result of the $10,000 deduction limitation on state and local taxes (SALT). The question to be answered is: How can we convince our constituents and new supporters that a tax-deductible charitable gift is far more valuable to New Yorkers in 2019 as a result of the SALT limitation?

7) Regional networks of providers

Collaboration with other organizations has always been a hallmark of the tax-exempt sector, which is starkly different from for-profit industries. The question to be answered is: How can we most effectively achieve our charitable mission through collaboration vs. competition with other providers?

8) Mergers, affiliations, and acquisitions

All of the foregoing results in virtually every tax-exempt organization needing to assess its future viability and sustainability as an autonomous organization. The question to be answered is: What strategies can be implemented through strategic affiliation with other providers that will result in the best strategic positioning for your nonprofit?

9) Technology sophistication

As the tax-exempt sector continues down the road to further provider consolidation, the cost of maintaining an appropriate level of technology sophistication must be considered. The question to be answered is: What is the cost of maintaining technology sophistication for our not-for-profit over the next five years, and does our financial condition support the technology expenditures required?

10) Strategic planning

The topics discussed in this column should lead you to the importance of a feasible and reasonable strategic plan for your nonprofit organization. The question to be answered is: What is our board policy regarding periodic review and status of our strategic-plan goals and objectives?

Concluding discussion of my Chautauqua visit, I must say that every year I go, I feel more educated and optimistic about meeting the challenges that face tax-exempt organizations each and every day.        

Gerald J. Archibald, CPA, is a partner in charge of the management advisory services at The Bonadio Group. Contact him at (585) 381-1000, or via email at garchibald@bonadio.com

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