Grantmakers and the Nonprofit Ecosystem: Part 2

In my last post, Grantmakers and the Nonprofit Ecosystem: Part 1, I shared my views on the findings of the Donors Forum 2011 Economic Outlook with regard to long-term sustainability on the nonprofit sector.

Today in Part 2, I present highlights of the panel discussion at the recent Breakin’ It Down Fundraising Program, where the speakers talked 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.

Mills began her talk by asking the question, “Can our programs have stronger impact if we strengthen other parts of the organization?” She followed the logic of how program effectiveness cannot stand on bad financial management. Nonprofits seem to have their hands tied to proving that all funds raised goes to programs. According to Mills, we need to invest in the infrastructure that will support all efforts to create significant outcomes. Mills also mentioned what turned out to be the overarching theme of the day – collaboration. Organizations should share resources to realize efficiencies and volume savings from vendors.

Brereton told the story of how Accion had to refocus and rebuild after nine years in order to regain their strength as a high-impact microlender to small independent businesses. After doing the necessary downsizing, they began the honest conversations with all stakeholders in their community about what were essential to get Accion on a long-term sustainable path. Transparency was another recurring theme of the day. Brereton also emphasized that the efforts of the board of directors to set solid expectations in the beginning and see them through effectively got everyone marching to the beat of the right drum.

Bermejo held the attention in the room with her recounting of the conversations she participated in with Hull House in 2011. She qualified them as healthy conversations because they centered on collaboration. Hull House needed to find a new home for their critical programs and services. According to Bermejo, it was a high priority for Metropolitan Family Services to keep Hull House teams intact to maintain the integrity of their programs. Bermejo credited the due diligence of the MFS Board in matching their capacity with what came from Hull House in order to preserve the legacy of Jane Adams.

The panel discussion wrapped up with what seemed to be a shared view by many in the room: that stakeholders in finance, programs and development need to have an open dialog about their new collective narrative, what roles they can effectively play and how they can work in sync to move their story forward.

Onward to our last workshops for the year:

Take advantage of our Special Offer
Reduced rate, $45 per person and $30 for each guest you bring.
(regular rate $75)

The Power of Symbols
Symbols have been used to inspire change throughout history. They have embodied powerful ideas, stories, people and societies. This session uses the graphic arts to stir creative thinking about your organization’s identity and develop your own visual language that translates your story into compelling and memorable images.
Key take-away: Are the colors and pictures in your communications effectively delivering the intended message?
Teaching Artist: Lindsay Obermeyer
Thursday, October 18, 2012 – REGISTER

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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