While good financial management is essential to the effectiveness and sustainability of nonprofit organizations, there is a sector-wide lack of transparency around finances and an incomplete understanding of the costs of program delivery, a study commissioned by the Wallace Foundation and conducted by MDRC and ChildTrends finds. Based on case studies of twenty-five youth-serving nonprofits in Chicago that participated in the foundation's Strengthening Financial Management in Out-of-School Time project, the report, The Skills to Pay the Bills: An Evaluation of an Effort to Help Nonprofits Manage Their Finances (122 pages, PDF), found that nonprofit finance departments tend to operate in isolation, have inadequate staff and IT systems, and neglect their long-term financial planning. What's more, funder practices such as short-duration grants with unrealistic limits on overhead exacerbate the challenges. The study also examined the efficacy of customized staff training versus a group-learning model composed primarily of workshops and found that while each approach generated improvements, group training, though less expensive, was less effective. The report also found that multiyear support, combined with funds earmarked for the purchase of financial software, was a key driver of long-term change, and that leadership buy-in was essential to improvement in the financial managment area.