Friday, November 7, 2008

Independent Sector Conference here I come!

I am flying to Philadelphia this weekend to the Independent Sector Conference and I am super excited. I have wanted to attend this conference for as long as I have been working in the NP sector but could never afford it.

The nonprofit research center where I work just joined IS so this conference will be a great opportunity for me to learn about all the member benefits and resources. I love collecting and sharing resources!!

I do have several hesitations about this conference, this is not the usual crowd I hang out with. The majority of IS attendees work for big name, top 50 nonprofits. Considering the majority of nonprofits in the sector earn under $1mil a year, the IS conference is a gathering of the elite in the sector and they like to keep it that way with their $1,000 registration fee. So, its a bit intimidating and I'm wondering if my voice will even be heard at this event. I'm pretty vocal but I'm not sure if the issues I care about in the sector are the same as the issues the majority of IS attendees care about. My mom always told me...there just the same as you...but I wonder if this is true. Do IS attendees really want to talk about the flawed system of the nonprofit sector when they are buddies with top funders and receive plenty of funding for operations.

I'm beginning to sound like us versus them. I know large nonprofit have issues and challenges, however it seems like more and more funders are calling for outcomes and show the results but the majority of nonprofits are crying out I need more funding for capacity and support for my staff!! The system is not working, many nonprofits are getting out of traditional funding competitions and turning to fee for service or other form of earned income to stay afloat. Ok, I'll stop my rant.

I am excited about attending the conference...really! I am attending the IS conference this year because I applied to and received a scholarship to attend the NGEN program, a new program at the IS conference. To tell you the truth I didn't think I would be able to get in, I'm not the traditional target market for this conference because I'm an academic although I used to run a nonprofit (one of those nonprofits with under $1mil budget).

The scholarship application process was tough, in fact it was as rigorous as applying to my PhD program. I had to provide two letters of recommendation in and by request of IS staff I had to rewrite my application (I didn't sell myself enough the first time). I definitely wouldn't have been accepted if it wasn't for Steve Bauer's letter of recommendation-- thanks Steve!

So, I did get accepted afterall and I am appreciative of this opportunity even though it doesn't sound like it and I hope I still have my scholarship after this blog post.

So, while I'm at it--I wonder if this conference be different and open doors, insights and opportunities for change? I just don't know. I am getting tired of discussing the same issues over and over again and not seeing results -- I'm really passionate about researching:
  • nonprofit leadership;
  • nonprofit workforce issues;
  • capacity building for nonprofits;
  • service-learning, and;
  • nonprofit education.
But I'm even more passionate about turning ideas and discussions into action to create long lasting change in the nonprofit sector.

1 comment:

Pamela Hawley said...

Thank you for your great comments, Heather. I hope you enjoy it! It does have fairly good diversity with the foundations, corporates and NGOs.. and I do so enjoy the people there. I hope you will share your insights, and I would particularly like to hear about the global emphasis, if at all.

Sudan and the Congo need to be talked about immeidately...

Go Global! Give your 100%!

Pamela Hawley
Founder and CEO
http://www.universalgiving.org