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Can outsourcing boost mission equity?

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Ryan J. Scapellato

Ryan J. Scapellato

[Publisher’s note: This article was provided by Blackbaud, a maker of fundraising software. Blackbaud is a PJ business partner.]

Ryan J. Scapellato

The do-good sector’s perception of having an employee revolving door is common — people come and go. Prior to the economic downturn, turnover was mostly voluntary with a move-up or move-on mentality.

However, in recent months much of the turnover has been fueled by management’s need to cut costs, leaving organizations understaffed with increased workloads.

This circumstance not only affects morale but also erodes operational efficiency. Recurring tasks such as reporting, list segmentation and donor acknowledgment begin to bottleneck, causing delay after setback after missed deadline.

The result can damage constituent perception, not to mention jeopardize donor retention and cultivation.

Nonprofits in search of an answer to missing staff and inefficient operations are applying business process outsourcing as a solution.

Business process outsourcing is a form of outsourcing that involves the contracting of operations and responsibilities of specific business functions/processes to a third-party service provider — a solution particularly attractive for recurring, administrative work requiring a fraction of a full-time employee.

However, while viable and economically attractive, outsourcing can present obstacles.

Depending upon the type of work a nonprofit is looking to source, specialized skills at reasonable rates can be challenging to pinpoint. The process of locating, contracting, and ramping-up resources can also be time consuming.

In some cases, experience with a third-party service provider may have produced heartburn over expensive specialists who did not understand the organization or did not deliver.

The upside is that outsourcing firms provide immediate access to people and intellectual property. These companies align their core competencies with the needs of an organization.

The result is a symbiotic partnership that nurtures a nonprofit’s organizational ecosystem.

While deciding on a partner is subjective, organizations should assess objective strengths. Evaluate financial stability, industry niche, and breadth of service menu.  How well does a particular firm’s core offerings align with needs?

Engaging in due diligence during the research phase will lead to an appropriate assessment of aligning third-party resources to augmentation goals (in areas such as direct marketing, content management and business intelligence).

An established method of working together to address recurring tasks is also important for outsourcing firms to convey.

Inquire about processes and best practices for collaborating toward objectives. A successful partnership is predicated on accurate expectation setting and follow-through — at the beginning.

The common question remains: Hire a full-time employee or subcontract to a third-party?

Formulate an economy of scale with production output achieved in-house versus farmed-out.

Cost advantages are typically categorized as faster and better; it is for this reason many people have their automobile oil changed by a mechanic — it’s faster, better and disposal is included.

The business process outsourcing value proposition for nonprofits is acquiring immediate help to more effectively, conveniently and affordably do a job it has been trying to do.

Especially given an uncertain economic climate and other challenges, outsourcing can provide a nimble solution to organizational requirements.

While in the for-profit sector companies look to outsourcing as a method by which to improve net profit, nonprofits can leverage outsourcing to boost mission equity — reducing administrative burdens while leaving staff free to focus on mission-oriented goals.


Ryan J. Scapellato is a solutions architect at Blackbaud.

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