Here are the harsh truths nonprofit startups learned

Optimistic nonprofit entrepreneurs received a reality check at Baruch College’s 15th annual Consulting Day for New York City’s nonprofits.

Baruch College nonprofit event

Baruch College nonprofit event David Gentile

Optimistic nonprofit entrepreneurs received a reality check at Baruch College’s 15th annual Consulting Day for New York City’s nonprofits.

“I would say people are excited and don’t always know all of the pieces that go into it. I feel like it’s really about helping people to understand what the next steps on the path are,” said Wendy Seligson, founder of Wendy Seligson Consulting.

The event was open to nonprofits at all stages of development and hosted by the Center for Nonprofit Strategy and Management at Baruch College’s Marxe School of international and Public Affairs. About 60 people attended, up from last year, according to Viktoriia Chubirka, program assistant with CNSM.

The free event offered 45 minute sessions, by appointment, with consultants specializing in topics such as managing real estate needs, volunteer management and capacity building and risk management. Startups took advantage.

“A lot of the people who I talked to are really at the earlier stages of starting up a nonprofit and are looking for advice on how to move down that path,” Seligson said. Her firm consults with nonprofits around making operations stronger. She suggested networking to help better understand the field.

“Get out there, and talk to people: executive directors that are years into having started a nonprofit, organizations that are already providing the types of services they want to provide. Don’t be too worried about being a competitor. There’s a lot of support out there,”  Seligson said.

Attendees had an opportunity to network during the event’s morning and afternoon sessions. There were also two workshops:  Understanding and Managing Today’s Workplace, hosted by Lucia Antonia Alcantara, the principal and founder of Futures Today Consulting, and Major Nonprofit Accounting Changes, hosted by Laurence Scot, the co-founder and co-managing partner of Skody Scot & Company, a CPA firm specializing in nonprofits.

Daniel Williams, a professor at the Baruch College School of Public Affairs who has attended all 15 of the Baruch College Consulting Day events, was careful to inject a little realism into his conversations.

“People who are starting up nonprofits are almost always more optimistic than they should be,” he said.

Denise Patrick, a communication studies professor at Baruch College, made sure to ground some of the attending entrepreneurs in the basics.

“It’s the same thing as a for-profit business. You need to know what you need this money for, what you’re trying to accomplish, who you’re doing this for, and how to budget,” Patrick said.

“There’s a little bit of a misconception with the newer or smaller startups, that there’s just money out there.”

One of Community Resource Exchange’s associate consultants, Erin M. Connell, also fielded queries around money during her first time offering services at the event.  “I had a lot of questions around sustainability, fundraising, grants, from groups wanting to grow in size.”

Patrick advised nonprofits to focus.

“Be very, very, clear about what you want to do, and what is your purpose. Understand your audiences. It’s not just an audience. It’s audiences.”