Personalized operations support and superb customer service elevate relationship between Alliance and Illinois Partners for Human Service

Situational Overview

Illinois Partners for Human Service understands the value of focus. As the statewide advocate for human service organizations in Illinois, it must manage internal capacity strategically so that it can successfully execute on mission and not be distracted by the turbulence of day-to-day operations.

“Allowing our nonprofit to focus on mission without having to be concerned about functions outside of the core business is really of value,” said Judith Gethner, executive director of Illinois Partners. “Anytime an organization can have those functions managed efficiently and cost effectively works in the favor of the entire community.”

The ability to focus on mission is certainly relevant to the coalition of more than 800 human service organizations united by the singular voice of Illinois Partners. Without its support, groups representing education, economic opportunity, health care, and public safety would be left to navigate the fluctuating nonprofit landscape on their own.

Challenge

Community-based organizations across the country are struggling with the management of back-office responsibilities. Some cannot even afford a human resources or IT staff member. If something goes wrong, hours, if not days, which could be better spent on higher level functions are instead lost to troubleshooting concerns.

As outlined in A National Imperative: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America, a report commissioned by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and the American Public Human Services Association, community-based organizations are vital to the country’s economic activity and social well-being. However, strains on organizational sustainability threaten to undercut the valuable contributions community-based organizations make toward addressing issues such as poverty, income inequality, and the impact of the opioid epidemic.

“The work of America’s community-based organizations is crucial to transforming the systemic challenges facing our nation, but there are numerous constraints hindering the sector’s ability to realize its full potential,” said Alliance President and CEO Susan Dreyfus. “The health of the human-serving sector is paramount to lasting, long-term solutions.”

Gethner agrees, acknowledging the significant role financial stability plays in realizing the sector’s potential.

“In terms of importance, the financial piece is number one,” she said. “But having the capacity to address human resource capabilities like providing insurance and other benefits is, I think, equally as important.”

To alleviate the pressures of financial and human resources functions and avoid the back-office multitasking common to nonprofits, Illinois Partners put out a proposal call for a partner to supplement its small team. 

Solution

As a result of the request for proposal, Illinois Partners has contracted with the Alliance for operations support services for almost five years. Gethner credits the Alliance’s exceptional century-long history of proven value to the human services sector as a primary reason it rose to the top of potential vendors.

“The Alliance is responsible for all things financial at Illinois Partners,” explained Gethner. “They also serve as the conduit for individual insurance for our employees as well as provide payroll support and set up the benefit structure within the payroll system.”

In addition, the Alliance assists with certain human resources functions depending on Illinois Partners’ needs. A recent re-evaluation of the organization’s whistleblower policy revealed shortcomings in the language, so Alliance staff helped to craft and develop an updated, robust policy reflecting the commitments of the organization.

Engaging directly with the Alliance’s financial and human resources experts has been a reassuring experience for Gethner and her team. From payroll questions to monthly meetings on budget reporting, the relationship has proven invaluable to Illinois Partners.

“It is an absolute honor to work with the Alliance and its staff,” said Gethner. “I find the customer service, attitude, and professionalism exceptional. They’re just fabulous to work with.”

Purposeful partnerships are integral to customizable operations support services that maximize mission impact, and the Alliance has crafted strategic relationships which allow it to cover:

  • Flexible accounting and bookkeeping assistance delivered directly by Alliance staff
  • Comprehensive, competitively priced group health insurance packages offered via industry leaders that cover thousands of companies and hundreds of thousands of lives
  • Employee assistance and work-life services from FEI Behavioral Health, the Alliance’s social enterprise
  • The ability to provide a wide range of retirement plans and planning services to employees, with the added value of no administrative fees
  • A cost-effective alternative to the state unemployment tax system
  • Access to group purchasing savings programs

Gethner highly anticipates the Alliance’s upcoming expansion of service offerings. The expansion seeks to support the sector by offering specialized expertise in risk management and compliance; fundraising and development; information technology and information systems; and public relations, marketing, and communications.

“Offering these kinds of operations support services is really what matters. It’s great,” she said. “Community-based organizations can pick and choose from a menu of services they may need, and just having that kind of opportunity is excellent.”

Contracting out financial and administrative duties for which internal capacity and resources is limited helps mitigate the constraints community-based organizations often face when delivering on mission. By pioneering innovative approaches to long-term sector sustainability, the Alliance is uniquely positioned to usher human services organizations toward achieving a healthy and equitable society.

Learn more about the Alliance Operations Support Services online.