Nonprofit Credit Counseling for Struggling Small Businesses
Running a small business can be extremely difficult, especially when it comes to managing finances and cash flow. Many small business owners find themselves struggling with debt, late payments, maxed out credit cards, and other financial issues that threaten the survival of their company. Fortunately, nonprofit credit counseling agencies can provide invaluable help for small businesses in these situations.
Understanding Nonprofit Credit Counseling
Nonprofit credit counseling agencies are organizations that provide free or low-cost financial guidance, debt management assistance, and educational programs to consumers and businesses in financial distress. These nonprofits are accredited and certified to provide impartial guidance to help individuals and business owners assess their financial situations, understand their options, and develop actionable debt relief or debt management plans.
Unlike for-profit agencies, nonprofit credit counselors do not receive commissions or charge high monthly service fees. They can offer unbiased advice to find the best solutions for each client’s unique financial circumstances. Their goal is to help clients relieve financial stress and achieve long-term financial stability.
Credit Counseling for Small Businesses
Most nonprofit credit counseling agencies were originally founded to help individual consumers. But many now also provide valuable services tailored specifically to help small business owners facing financial hardship . These can include:
Debt Management Programs
- Set up payment plans to pay down business debt over 3-5 years
- Negotiate with creditors for lower interest rates or waived fees
- Get creditors to agree to reduced or partial lump sum settlements
- Consolidate payments into one monthly payment to the agency
Business Credit Counseling
- Review business finances and create a budget
- Identify ways to cut costs and improve cash flow
- Create business debt repayment plan
- Help resolve issues with creditors and collectors
- Group workshops and webinars
- One-on-one financial coaching
- Tools and resources to better manage business finances
- Help determine if bankruptcy is the right option
- Pre-bankruptcy certificate required to file business bankruptcy
- Guidance on completing bankruptcy paperwork
- Help reestablishing business credit after bankruptcy
- Ongoing budget and finance advice
Student Loan Counseling
- Advise on options for managing student loan debt
- Help enroll in income-driven repayment plans
The Benefits of Nonprofit Credit Counseling
There are many potential benefits for small business owners who work with nonprofit credit counselors during financial difficulties:
1. Unbiased Guidance
Nonprofit credit counseling agencies provide impartial guidance focused on the client’s best interests, not on making a profit. Their advice helps business owners understand all their options.
2. Lower Interest Rates
Counselors can negotiate with creditors and debt collectors to reduce interest rates on business debts. This significantly decreases monthly payments.
3. Debt Management Programs
Consolidating multiple payments into one monthly payment to the counseling agency helps struggling businesses avoid missed payments and stay current on their debts.
4. Extra Time to Pay
Creditors often agree to extended repayment programs of 3-5 years, coordinated by the nonprofit agency. This gives small businesses breathing room during periods of financial distress.
5. Settling Debts for Less
Counselors help negotiate lump sum payoffs to settle business debts for pennies on the dollar, eliminating debt completely.
6. Stopping Collection Activities
By enrolling clients in debt management plans, agencies can get collection agencies to stop calling and pursuing legal action while debts are being paid off.
7. Rebuilding Credit
As businesses make regular on-time payments over several years, this responsibility helps improve business credit scores over time.
8. Ongoing Support
Nonprofit agencies provide ongoing education, budgeting help, and emotional support to guide small businesses back to financial health.
Finding a Reputable Nonprofit Credit Counseling Agency
With so many credit counseling agencies to choose from, it’s important for small business owners to find reputable nonprofits that meet their needs. Here are some tips:
- Check credentials – Make sure the agency belongs to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) or the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA). These trade groups require rigorous standards and accountability from their member agencies.
- Look for transparency – Legitimate agencies provide upfront information on their services, fees, and sources of funding on their websites. They have nothing to hide.
- Understand the business – Search for agencies with extensive experience in small business credit counseling, not just consumer credit counseling. Ask about their track record helping companies similar to yours.
- Interview counselors – Make sure the credit counselors have proper certifications and expertise regarding small business finance, lending, and bankruptcy. Personality is also important – you want someone supportive who will coach you through hardship.
- Compare service offerings – Consider which nonprofit agencies offer the types of services and programs your small business needs rather than a “one-size-fits-all” model.
- Read reviews – Check third-party review sites and consumer protection bureaus for complaints, transparency ratings, and client satisfaction feedback. The best nonprofits have overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Getting Started with Credit Counseling
If your small business is struggling with overwhelming debt, cash flow problems, or other financial issues, nonprofit credit counseling can be a lifeline. By providing unbiased guidance, debt relief expertise, and ongoing budgeting support, these agencies empower small business owners to tackle their financial challenges in a strategic way.
To get started, research nonprofit credit counseling agencies in your state and schedule introductory calls with two or three before deciding on the best fit. Be prepared to provide details on your business finances so counselors can offer tailored solutions. With the right credit counseling agency as a partner, you can relieve financial stress and focus on keeping your small business afloat during tough times.