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When Nonprofits Fail


Fordham’s Center for Nonprofit Leaders – a collaboration of the Graduate School of Social Service and the Gabelli School of Business – sponsored an informative and compelling panel discussion “When Nonprofits Fail:  What to do When Deficits Hit”. Featured panelists were Allison Sesso, Executive Director of the Human Services Council;  Fred Shack, CEO of Urban Pathways and Phil Conte, CFO of The Africa Center.   I was privileged to be the panel moderator.

Pictured left to right above: Nancy Wackstein, Fred Shack, Allison Sesso & Phil Conte

Panelists identified the structural problems that cause nonprofits to experience financial stress and in some cases to fail entirely.   There was agreement  among panelists that the business model under which nonprofits operate in the City of New York, particularly those working in the human services arena, is flawed, risky and must be changed.

Why this matters to Fordham is that the bulk of social services in New York City today are delivered by nonprofit organizations through contracts with the City and State governments and the bulk of our graduates will end up working in such settings.

The Human Services Council’s recent report on the this subject “New York Nonprofits In the Aftermath of FEGS:  A Call to Action” points out that the terms of these government contracts cause chronic and damaging underfunding of nonprofits, particularly their infrastructure needs like technology and human resources.  This has created an environment in which agencies either have to raise substantial private  funds or run deficits… or fold.

I urge everyone to read the recent HSC report – or at least the Executive Summary if you’re a busy person! – at their website    It is both insightful and troubling.

Watch Panel Video

Nancy Wackstein, MSW
Director of Community Engagement & Partnerships
Fordham University
Graduate School of Social Service
113 West 60th Street
New York, NY 10023


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