TIMELINE OF LIFESPAN
Nonprofit LifeSpan Inc. is celebrating this year its 70th anniversary. Here’s a look back:
1945 — Began as Family Services of Hamilton
1953 — Incorporated in Ohio
1972 — Name changed to Family Services of Butler County
1981 — Consumer credit counseling service added
1991 — Family connection program added
1993 — School-based social work added
1996 — Guardianship services added
1999 — Representative payee services added
2000 — Name changed to LifeSpan
2004 — Main offices moved to new home at 1900 Fairgrove Ave., in Hamilton
2009 — Contracted to provide elderly services program care management in all of Butler County
2011 — Moved to new locations in Middletown and Mason
2013 — Acquired Cincinnati nonprofit SmartMoney Community Services to expand financial education services, but SmartMoney was dissolved in 2014
2015 Fiscal Year budget: $4.1 million
- 1900 Fairgrove Ave., Hamilton
- 1002 University Blvd., Middletown
- 7588 Central Parke Blvd., Suite 322, Mason
The nonprofit LifeSpan Inc. hasn’t survived 70 years by standing still.
If it hadn’t made any changes since its founding seven decades ago in 1945, LifeSpan — or Family Services of Hamilton as it was called then — would still be providing only mental health services to veterans returning from war and suffering “shellshock.”
LifeSpan still provides mental health services, but that’s a small part of what it does today. The group also provides financial counseling services; care management for older adults and the mentally disabled; school-based support services; representative payee services; behavioral health counseling; and guardianship services primarily in Butler and Warren counties.
More than 13,000 people were served last year by LifeSpan, which celebrated its 70th anniversary at the organization’s annual meeting last Tuesday.
A willingness to adapt over the years as well as a business mindset and collaboration with other nonprofits have all been keys to LifeSpan’s survival over the years, said Chief Executive Officer Bill Staler.
“We need to adapt to those community needs as they change, and one way the community tells us what it needs is by funding us,” Staler said. He became CEO in 2011.
In more recent history, nonprofits have had to focus on cutting the cost of office operations to maintain or increase the level of services, Staler said. Nonprofits that outlasted the most recent recession when budgets were tight have not only cut costs, but also looked for ways to grow through expansion of services and mergers. Nonprofits are also responding to changing donor priorities, Staler said.
“We’ve just had to make sure our operations are effective and efficient, which is a good thing,” Staler said.
But costs can only be cut so much without losing good employees or sacrificing quality of services. Unlike a for-profit corporation, the mission comes first before seeking higher revenues, Staler said.
“We would never reduce the quality of our service to essentially make more money,” he said.
LifeSpan is funded by fees for services, donations and taxpayer dollars. Funding sources include the Butler County Elderly Services levy. LifeSpan is also independent and not part of a larger national organization.
Butler County United Way in recent years changed its method to fund programs that support its mission instead of funding agencies. One nonprofit cannot do everything, said Mag Baker, the president and chief executive officer of the Butler County chapter. Rather, United Way and its donors want to fund the programs that have the most impact, Baker said.
“Nonprofits are beginning to understand it’s about the mission but it is also about running a business. We have to have the same discipline as a for-profit business, the only difference is the profits we make go back into the community,” Baker said.
One program funded by the local United Way is LifeSpan’s financial counseling services such as advice on mortgages, bankruptcy and student loans, Baker said. LifeSpan is the only local nonprofit to offer financial and credit counseling services, she said. And LifeSpan collaborated with other nonprofits to lend its financial education expertise to a course on starting a business.
LifeSpan partners with other local nonprofits Supports to Encourage Low-Income Families, Neighborhood Housing Services of Hamilton Inc. and Butler County Small Business Development Center on a Microenterprise and Microloan Program. Qualified low- and moderate-income people can apply for a multi-week course on business management. As part of the class, students must form an action plan of business goals and objectives to present to apply for a low-interest microloan.
“I would say it’s kind of evolved over the last 10 years but because there’s so many people chasing the same dollars and there’s not so many resources out in the community, you have to make sure you’re setting yourself apart because donors are demanding more accountability,” Baker said.