Tuesday, October 23, 2018
In a perfect world, everyone will be able to handle all of their own affairs, right until the day they die. In a perfect world, even if that was not possible (or even desirable), there is always some trustworthy family member or friend to step in to help.
Alas, it isn't a perfect world. For a number of years, when I was supervising an Elder Law Clinic, our clients sometimes needed the assistance of a professional agent or guardian, someone who was experienced in providing fiduciary management services for people of modest means, and who had a track record and references to demonstrate competence. We also wanted to see their certificate of insurance or bonding.
Recently I was looking for a guest speaker for a Nonprofit Organization Law class and I reached out to a company in my address book. I learned it had ceased doing business. In contrast to the dramatic stories from locations such as New Mexico, where nonprofit entities failed to carryout their fiduciary duties, Neighborhood Services, based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania found it necessary to close their doors for 300 vulnerable clients because of gaps in charitable funding.
Some clients had behavioral health needs. Approximately 150 of the clients were incapacitated people living in nursing and personal care homes in a multiple county region. New representatives were needed for all of them. A 2017 news story explained:
Founded in 1964, nonprofit Neighborhood Services fell over $400,000 in debt after losing most of its United Way funding a couple of years ago and failing to secure key federal grants, said Stanley, who joined the agency in October 2015 as its woes were mounting.
The agency, which never prioritized fund-raising, has lost several staff members in recent months and currently employs five.
Neighborhood Services’ most visible role has been serving as the representative payee for more than 150 clients with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or addiction issues. The agency received the clients’ monthly disability checks and prioritized the payment of their rent and other basic needs.
"I'll miss all the staff," said Nathan Wilson, 57, who relied on Neighborhood Services to manage his finances. "Whenever I need extra, they always get it for me."
This history is a reminder that more than good intentions are needed to run a successful nonprofit organization.