The Council of Community Services of New York State, Inc (CCSNYS), the organization, is not quite as old as the building that houses it, but it certainly has a long and solid foundation. It is now recognized as one of the largest state associations in the country, with 33 staff members in five different offices across New York State. Staff expertise is diverse and nonprofits can expect to find lawyers, fund development specialists, finance experts, governance experts and risk management experts all one call away! Started in 1927, CCSNYS was originally called The Council of Social Agencies. The organization, in it´s original form, was intended to make sure that community needs in the city of Albany were well documented and any gaps addressed. CCSNYS "grew up" along side the United Way and many times acted as the actual provider of vital services to nonprofits as they struggled to meet the needs of their constituents. Then, as now, community organizations struggled with finding adequate funding and staffing to properly deliver their services to the communities that were in the most need.
As CCSNYS grew, the organization´s reputation in the region grew along with it. CCSNYS was asked to be involved in a wide range of community projects, many of which are still around today. CCSNYS has been known as the vanguard in addressing relevant needs amid impending changes in social patterns. For example, CCSNYS’ developed the Helpline to address a long-standing need in the Capital Region by providing access to crisis services. CCSNYS’ services expanded and began to serve Schenectady, Saratoga and Rensselear counties as well.
While much of the vital work CCSNYS was doing was for the residents of local communities, it seemed a natural progression that the nonprofit organizations working in these communities began accessing CCSNYS’ expertise as well. Nonprofits in the Capital Region found that CCSNYS could be a trusted source for information when they had questions on running their nonprofit "business," including questions about human resources and health insurance programs. Since the 1960´s CCSNYS has been providing guidance to nonprofit organizations, both big and small, on how they can protect themselves and provide their employees with insurance benefits. Nonprofits also turned to CCSNYS when they needed legal advice or help with developing a strategic vision on how to serve their communities. As requests grew for this kind of service, CCSNYS responded by developing the Leadership & Management Institute.
The Institute, as it became lovingly known, was responsible for providing assistance to hundreds of nonprofits every year, including those outside of the Capital District. Tapping into the power of the nonprofit sector, CCSNYS, under the direction of it’s young Executive Director, Doug Sauer, joined with others across the country in forming a nationwide association of nonprofits, crystallizing the concept of “power in numbers” and economies of scale for nonprofits. CCSNYS, as the recognized statewide association of nonprofits expanded its menu of benefits to include more focused group purchasing programs in insurance, including our own insurance subsidiary, office supplies, payroll outsourcing, conference calling, and more. Negotiating on behalf of the nonprofit sector in New York State, CCSNYS has saved their members hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.
CCSNYS continues to adapt with the changing times, recently responding to the increased demand from donors, funders and the government for nonprofits to become more transparent and accountable. By publishing “Standards for Common Sense,” CCSNYS helped to deliver a dose of realism to a world that does not fully understand the immense good work that the sector is already doing. The booklet helps nonprofits get a handle on some of the key standards being proposed (some as regulatory) and how they can manage and implement common sense best practices and still deliver programs and services to the communities they serve.
CCSNYS is also collaborating with new partners such as the New York State Society of CPAs to bring the “CPAs on Boards” program to its members. The program connects willing CPA board members to nonprofits who are searching for financial expertise and guidance.
New programs and initiatives are what keep CCSNYS at the forefront of serving the nonprofits and communities that need their help. Whether it is comprehensive financial or fundraising conferences, new online workshops, additional cost-saving benefits, community needs assessments or strategic planning for the future, CCSNYS has been and will continue to be the backbone of building stronger nonprofits and healthy, caring communities.
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