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Triangle Family Services retools

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Aiming to stem losses and reengineer itself, Triangle Family Services has slashed spending and projected revenue for this year, and begun an effort to become more entrepreneurial, collaborative and decentralized.

“Nonprofits, like businesses, need constant review and analysis of themselves,” says Miles Wright, interim CEO.

Hired in September after long-time CEO George O’Neal resigned abruptly, Wright has cut the agency’s budget to $2.5 million from nearly $3.2 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

He also has assembled an advisory group of fundraising experts and asked them to recommend a resource-development strategy that makes more effective use of the organization’s supporters, volunteer leaders and staff.

And he is beginning his own audit of the organization’s business processes, and plans to create a separate advisory group to recommend a plan for decentralizing the way the agency delivers services.

A nonprofit, Wright says, needs to take stock of “how effectively it’s raising funds, how effectively it’s delivering services to the community and, more importantly, if what it’s doing matches what the community need is.”

Formed in 1937, Triangle Family Services employs 46 people and delivers a broad range of family-safety, financial-security and mental-health programs to 5,500 people a year at offices in Raleigh and Durham.

An initial review he conducted of operations for the first two-and-a-half months of the current fiscal year found the agency was running at a deficit of roughly $50,000 a month, Wright says.

So he developed a plan that led to the elimination of six positions; a new, less costly contract for phone and internet service; a 40-hour work week, up from 37.5 hours; and larger employee contributions to the company’s health insurance plan.

Wright also reduced to just over $1.53 million from $2.1 million the income the agency expects to receive through fundraising in the current fiscal year.

That total includes $503,000 the agency still will receive from Triangle United Way, the biggest allocation United Way makes to any of its 81 partner agencies in Durham, Orange and Wake counties.

“Our goal this year is basically to break even,” Wright says.

He says the agency plans to consolidate its Raleigh operations in the 12,500-square-foot office it leases at 401 Hillsborough St., and is in talks to sublet the 3,000-square-foot office it leases at 118 St. Mary’s Street.

Wright also plans to form an advisory group to develop a plan to create satellite offices to deliver services throughout the region, not just in downtown areas, possibly in partnership with government, nonprofit and for-profit providers.

“We need to decentralize and be closer to the people who need our services,” he says.

A former chair of its board, Wright prepared a report in October saying the agency operated with “needless, wasteful bureaucracy,” that the staff focused mainly on daily tasks rather than improvement and change, and that the agency had not prepared the board to tell the agency’s story with passion or to raise money effectively.

“The development effort at Triangle Family Services is broken,” Wright wrote. “It lacks strategic vision, experienced staff, and reasonable outcome measures.”

Now, he says, “we need to swing our doors open, be social entrepreneurs, be thinking about how to solve community needs, rather than simply continuing to fund existing programs.”

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