Friday, January 16, 2009

Nonprofit Conferences I would like to attend this year

Its that time of year again when I need to choose which conferences I'll be attending this year. This is so hard because I love all nonprofit conferences!! I'd love to be able to blog and/or present at each of these conferences. What is your favorite nonprofit conference?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I love funders that understand nonprofits!!

I attended USD's annual nonprofit governance symposium this past weekend. My favorite session was Ruth Westrich's (Westreich Foundation) session about the differences between nonprofit and for profit businesses. Her presentation is available on her Foundation's website. I really wish more funders were like her. I am not just saying this because she is an advisory board member of USD's nonprofit program, but Ruth really understands nonprofits.

Her key points were:
  • Funders should provide multi-year (3 year minimum) general operating support grants in large amounts because small grants do not help but often hinder nonprofit work.
  • Funders should take the time to learn about the nonprofits they are supporting and require outcomes data on these grants.
  • Nonprofits should make an effort to keep really good records to measure their successes. Typical measures of success might include: social change, public attitude or behavioral change.
  • Funders shouldn't just fund programs, but fund nonprofit infrastructure too.
  • Nonprofits should look for earned revenue income streams because they can't always rely on the same funders year after year especially in these challenging economic times.
Then later the afternoon our keynote, Luz A. Vega-Marquis CEO of the Marguerite Casey Foundation also spoke about the importance of providing general operating support grants. Her foundation's smallest grants are $100k for three years. Her organization's mission is to address poverity issues, however she and her staff understand they don't have the answers to solve these issues--the nonprofits do--so they partner with and fund nonprofits that are building movements in low-income communities. This is great!! I love how these funders understand nonprofits.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Stop talking about what's trendy in Philanthropy and listen to the little people!

I'm really tired of philanthropists and the media writing and talking about what is sexy or trendy with philanthropy. Many philanthropists, nonprofits, and especially the media have lost sight of what is important in our sector that is, to solve social problems.

Philanthropists continue to have the same boring conversations like the one at the Tactical Philanthropy Forum with Bill Somerville and Paul Brest (sorry Sean but its true). I think Bill is trying to do great things with his funding but he isn't going to truly solve social problems because his main point is finding and funding passionate people.

Funding passionate people or organizations for that matter will not solve social problems. Dan Palotta in his book Uncharitable hit that one the head. In order to truly solve social problems we have to change the system of the nonpofit sector. Its controversial but its the TRUTH!!

In order to change the system, we need to come together philanthropists and nonprofits alike. The problem is nonprofits are too scared--who will be the first to question or challenge the funder--the hand that pays their bills? If philanthropists stopped talking and provided opportunities for these nonprofits (us little people) to talk, we could change the system together.

I recently conducted research at USD that confirmed this, in a focus group of nonprofit graduate students (all working professionals). They said they wanted to be able to question the system of the nonprofit sector and the way they do work. Anyone who has worked in a nonprofit understands this. If we change the system and the way we are funded our organizations will be more competitive, retain staff and truly solve social problems. It shouldn't be an either or and it certainly shouldn't be the philanthropists with the money decides how the sector should run.