Grantmakers and the Nonprofit Ecosystem

Last week’s Breakin’ It Down Fundraising Program, featured a panel discussion about how nonprofits can create new ways to deliver on their mission in the midst of the economic recession and government cutbacks to services. Valerie S. Lies, President and CEO of the Donors Forum, moderated the panel which consisted of Karina Ayala Bermejo, General Counsel of Metropolitan Family Services, Jonathan Brereton, CEO of Accion Chicago, and Andrea T. Mills, Director of Fiscal Management Associates, LLC.

Lies began the session by describing the current state of affairs as indicated in the Donors Forum’s Economic Outlook 2011: Signs of Recovery but Challenges Persist. What struck me from this report as potentially having the most impact on nonprofits and the people they serve is the suggestion from grantmakers for consolidation of the sector to increase long-term sustainability.

In my view, mergers and any kind of restructuring will not only change how the organization operates in its resulting form; they will also affect how sector leaders can effectively promote innovation. Real outcomes don’t come from one-size-fits-all solutions. Real social impact springs from having made choices that are relevant and specific for a person in a particular situation.

The most serious change will be on the nonprofit’s social fabric in which their mission is deeply rooted. They would have to unravel what brought them together as a community. With their identity dissolving and their voice fading, what’s left is the hope that people will keep their mission alive and continue to tell their story. On the other hand, the entire sector still has a collective narrative we need to tell. What kind of story will evolve from a culture of consolidation?

The Economic Outlook summary does end on a brighter note – one that promotes collaboration:

“…the general preference is to focus on improving the capacities of individual organizations, influencing the sector through “modeling” of “best practices,” and collaborative relationships between grantmakers and nonprofits.”

Yes, there is limited funding available. Therefore, grantmakers can make the most bang for the buck by investing strategically to change the ecosystem and make it more supportive for organizations to deliver on their mission. This is an essential role to play in the collective narrative. Only then can we begin to tell a story about real sustainability.

Next week: Part 2 with highlights of the panel discussion.

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Write Your Story for Video
Let’s face it: The media landscape has been forever changed by the internet. Aside from social media, video is a major component in engaging your audience. Today, Youtube is the second largest search engine next to Google. When used effectively, video can not only help you rank in searches but can also compel viewers to ‘share’ your story across the web and give you and your organization the potential to reach hundreds to even millions of people interested in your cause or service. This workshop focuses on the best approach to creating content for your video campaign.
Key take-aways: (1) What aspect of your organization’s story can be best communicated through video, and (2) how do we streamline the message into a brief but memorable narrative.
Teaching Artist: Jessica Christopher
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 – REGISTER

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