A Minimalist Approach to Mission Results & Funding


Are you interested in reducing your costs and delivering more mission? If yes, consider using a model created by Manatee Glens, a nonprofit located in Bradenton, Florida. During the recent recession this nonprofit introduced and received funds for a hospital-without-walls for teens suffering from co-occurring emotional and alcohol and drug problems. The resulting service enjoys funding, huge clinical success, and cost reductions of $175 (from $325 to $50) daily, per family.

You’re reading Your Profitable Non-Profit, a column for nonprofit leaders like you, which explores remarkable ideas that leading nonprofit organizations use to increase income, decrease costs, or just make their organizations better. Each column shares a successful idea, plus ways to adapt it. Today, we look at and study the strategy behind the hospital-without-walls program to understand how you, like Manatee Glens, might save money, secure funding, and achieve more mission.

Manatee Glens is a behavioral health hospital and outpatient practice that specializes in adult and childhood mental health and addiction disorders. The hospital-without-walls provides essential services for teens. What makes it very attractive is that, at the same time, it eliminates costs associated with the typical alternative for this service including room, board, facility costs, and staff required to operate a traditional 24-hour hospital facility. At the same time, the program increases client and family in-home services and earned government funding, even as those monies were being slashed everywhere.

What is the strategy behind the hospital-without-walls initiative? By removing the specifics, we notice that Manatee Glens built their new program by focusing on providing only the “sacred essentials.” Sacred essentials are the “must do” actions in your work that create the majority of the results. (For more, sign up for Added Value; it’s free. The August 2012 issue main article explores the concept of sacred essentials.) In serving teens suffering from co-occurring emotional and alcohol and drug problems, the sacred essential is the help professional staff delivers to young people and their families. Non-essentials include providing housing, food, supervising people who are asleep, and keeping the grass cut.

Finding a similar minimalist-outcome-enhancing strategy for your nonprofit will take time, input from others, and innovative thinking. You may want to add this to your list of strategy planning work or create a special standalone event. Big picture: a process to explore minimalist possibilities includes the following steps:

  1. Dissect your service to identify its sacred essentials. Ask: What are its sacred essentials? What actions create the majority of results?
  2. Play like a child with a new chemistry set with the goal of providing more mission and improved finances. Mix new combinations of services, locations, and timing to create options. Explore: What if you provided your sacred essential without some or all of the ancillary services? Manatee Glens, for instance, discarded the need for a hospital building. In this step, ignore existing standards that require you to provide non-essentials, no matter how convenient and compelling.
  3. Once you formulate some minimalist possibilities, continue to play, but in a new way. Speculate if any of the options identified might provide even more mission results, either by themselves or with tweaking. On paper, change or add activities that enhance your results. Manatee Glens discovered that by offering services in the home, they helped more household members. Ask: Is there any way you can achieve even more sacred essential?
  4. As possibilities take shape, establish criteria to evaluate and compare your options. After you prioritize them, explore how to implement the best. Manatee Glens developed the hospital-without-walls concept before the recession. “The (government) funders might not have been interested in it except that it was an alternative to losing the program,” Mary Ruiz, Manatee Glens’ President/CEO explains. Consider: How can you road test your strongest possibilities? What circumstances might make your minimalist approach of interest to donors and customers?

Manatee Glens’ hospital-without-walls provides an excellent model for nonprofit leaders to examine how to provide your sacred essentials to create more mission and better finances. Next month, in Your Profitable Nonprofit, we explore how a group with expertise in training dogs for hard work created new revenue by helping people who want well-trained dogs.