California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom
California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom is a small nonprofit coalition which represents more than 40 organizations focused on sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice. The organization provides the space, support, and tools for member organizations to share ideas and information, build relationships, discuss opportunities, and coordinate their legislative and policy efforts in order to advance sexual and reproductive freedom in California.
In the fall of 2015, CCRF’s long time executive director resigned from her role and left the organization. Her departure was made more complicated by the fact that, prior to taking the job with CCRF, she had served as executive director of one of CCRF’s member agencies and she was widely considered to be CCRF’s emotional leader as well as its business leader. She had developed one its major programs, led the organization through a major change, and increased overall membership to its current levels.
However, starting in 2010, philanthropic investment in reproductive rights and health had been on a decline and CCRF’s budget had steadily been decreasing since then. The ongoing disinvestment in CCRF’s work had resulted in a projected budget shortfall of $15,000 in 2014 and few prospects for new funding in the coming year.
The Board of Directors had originally hoped to hire a new Executive Director in early 2014. However, after several months, the Board realized that it would need to reconsider its hiring approach and opted to hire a part-time executive until its budget and fundraising challenges were resolved.
I joined CCRF as “Executive Project Director” in June of 2014 with the goals of: 1) filling the budget shortfall for the current year and 2) creating a balanced budget for the 2015 fiscal year, including reducing expenses and increasing revenues.
My first focus was to reduce the operational expenses as much as possible without sacrificing effectiveness. Fortunately, the organization had recently downsized from three fulltime FTEs to a single person, 0.5 FTE organization. I immediately recognized the opportunity to transform CCRF into a 100% mobile organization—I sold all of CCRF’s computers and office equipment and transferred the 100% of the office lease to its office share partner. This singular change immediately reduced CCRF’s operating expenses by more than 50%.
The next step was to increase CCRF’s revenues to meet the remainder of the budget shortfall. For coalition-based nonprofits like CCRF, membership fees and foundation grants are the two main sources of operational funding. (CCRF had voluntarily opted not to seek individual funds to avoid fundraising conflicts with its members.) Membership fees are typically faster to collect than foundation grants, so my first step was to focus on collecting outstanding membership fees. Although collection of outstanding fees took 6-8 weeks, the total of all membership fees was enough to fill the budget shortfall for the 2014 year.
From Stabilization to Growth
Following the initial stabilization period, I began securing new revenue for CCRF by 1) recruiting new members for the coalition and 2) seeking new foundation funding. I reached out to 5 potential member organizations, one of which joined CCRF. I also worked collaboratively with CCRF Advisory Board members to identify and reach out to new foundations. This collaborative approach proved to be a critical strategy in raising revenues for CCRF because it allowed CCRF and its members to seek new avenues to fund coalition efforts. CCRF itself secured two new funders with grants totally $25,000. CCRF members also found ways to include coalition work as part of their grant budgets, which resulted in members paying increased dues and paying sponsorships fees for CCRF activities. By the end of FY2015, CCRF had secured a six-month operating reserve.
Preparing for New Leadership
CCRF also had tremendous policy and advocacy success in 2015, which resulted in CCRF members being featured in the December 2015 edition of San Francisco Magazine. The article, called “Women in Power,” further increased the reach and influence of CCRF members and the coalition as a whole. CCRF leaders decided to capitalize on this advantage by hosting an advocacy breakfast in Sacramento for elected representatives, their staffs and guests, CCRF members, and media representatives. This breakfast also increased CCRF revenues by selling program sponsorships and selling tickets to CCRF guests.
When I stepped down as Executive Project Director of CCRF in May 2016, CCRF had a nine-month operating reserve, had streamlined its operations, and raised it profile with key audiences and stakeholders. I am pleased to know my efforts on behalf of the agency have helped it continue to thrive.
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