Case Detail

Case Summary

The North Side Children's Agency (B): Finances versus Mission

Case Number: 5-112-006(B), Year Published: 2012

HBS Number: KEL661

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Authors: Anne Cohn Donnelly; Trinita Logue

Key Concepts

General Management, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning


The North Side Children’s Agency (NSCA) was a twenty-three-year-old nonprofit organization founded to serve very low-income working parents who qualified for income-based government child care subsidies. In support of its mission, the NSCA operated year-round, full-day child care programs at seven different sites for children from six weeks through twelve years of age. It employed a standard nonprofit governance model with a volunteer board of directors, each of whom was assigned to one of six committees, which functioned quite independently.

After years of success, in 2004 the NSCA faced a serious cash shortage and its first deficit in a decade. Board members were not only surprised by the crisis but also unprepared to deal with the short- and long-term issues it raised. Board members required strong leadership to organize them to identify the causes of the crisis and think strategically about the organization’s response.

Learning Objectives

Anticipate how changes in the external environment and government policy can have an impact on a nonprofit’s operations and mission 
Identify ways to organize governance to maximize effectiveness and minimize blind spots
Use strategic thinking to identify causes of a crisis and potentially redefine a nonprofit’s mission
Identify the lack of control over funding and the overreliance on one funding source as primary pitfalls of nonprofits that deliver services paid for by the government

Number of Pages: 7

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Management

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Industry: Nonprofit

Organization Name: Fictional

Organization Department: Budget and Finance Committee

Organization Size: Small

Decision Maker Position: Treasurer

Decision Maker Gender: Female

Year of Case: 2004