This study examines a Wallace-sponsored initiative aimed at improving the financial management skills and practices of 25 Chicago afterschool providers through training and coaching. The effort provided, and tested, two models for professional development: (1) intensive customized training and (2) less costly group training and coaching. Both produced long-lasting improvements. Nearly all of the participating nonprofits demonstrated improved financial skills, financial data system use, financial reporting, and collaboration between program and financial divisions. Moreover, organizations receiving the group training improved almost as much as those receiving customized training, albeit over the course of three years rather than two. The full cost of recruiting new financial staff members, buying software, paying for associated training and covering staff time was an estimated $70,000 to $110,000 per organization.
The study also discusses a simultaneous Wallace-sponsored effort by Donors Forum, a membership association for philanthropies and nonprofits in Illinois, to work toward streamlining the state’s grant, funding and reporting practices. This advocacy effort met with mixed results. The state created a repository that permitted nonprofits to submit standard financial information annually instead of several times each year. However, the biggest challenge nonprofits faced—late payments from the state—was not addressed because of Illinois’ ongoing budget crisis.