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. This nonprofit introduced and received funds for a hospital-without-walls for teens suffering from co-occurring emotional and alcohol, and drug problems during the recent recession. The resulting service enjoys funding, huge clinical success, and cost reductions of $175 (from $325 to $50) daily per family.

This post explores remarkable ideas that leading nonprofit organizations use to increase income, decrease costs, or improve their organizations. 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 outcomes.

Manatee Glens is a behavioral health hospital and outpatient practice specializing 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? First, we notice that Manatee Glens built their new program by removing the specifics 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. For example, 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 strategic 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 to provide 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. For example, 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 essentials?
  4. As possibilities take shape, establish criteria to evaluate and compare your options. After you prioritize them, explore how to implement the best. For example, Manatee Glens developed the hospital-without-walls concept before the recession. “They (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. Next, 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 results and better finances.

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