(Nonprofits+Politics)2.0

January 5, 2011

Thinking About Nonprofit Buzzwords & Priorities

Filed under: Nonprofit — Tags: , , , , , , , — kgilnack @ 1:40 pm

Another decade comes and goes (or did it end in 2009?), and with it, a slew of nonprofit buzzwords.  I strongly encourage you to take a look at Lucy Bernholz’s insightful post on the Chronicle of Philanthropy about how Philanthropy’s 10 Favorite Buzzwords of the Decade Show How Nonprofits Are Changing.

Lucy is spot on in pointing out the trend of how nonprofits have sought market-based solutions and new funding streams, largely as government and other traditional sources of revenue constricted during the recession.  But as I think back on the previous decade, I feel as though there was a significant shift in from pre-recession buzz to the point we’re at today.

Before the recession, the sector at all levels seemed to be focused on addressing the generation gap and I hope and expect that issue to move back into the forefront of conversation as we continue climbing out of this recession, funding & staffing stabilize, 401k’s bounce back, and more boomers get ready to retire.  Don’t get me wrong, many smart and talented millennial have continued the conversation – see http://nonprofitmillennials.org – but it’s time for the trades, major nonprofit publications, and execs to put “succession planning” “generation gap” “mentoring” “leadership development” back on the forefront of the conversation.

While discussion around nonprofit funding models is nothing new, drastic cuts to state and federal grants and contracts and lower giving from foundations and private donors created new urgency on this issue as we saw the emergence of research, writing, and experimentation around  “innovation” “collaboration” “social enterprise” and many of the buzzwords that Lucy points out.  I sincerely hope that  discussion and action in this area will continue even after dire economic times subside as these have the potential to transform and stabilize the important work of our sector.

Buzzwords may come and go, but I do hope our sector exercises its great ability to multi-task by focusing on these two areas to ensure that nonprofits have the strong leadership and sustainable funding they need to continue serving our communities – as well as continuing to look ahead strategically for the next buzzwords that can strengthen our work.

October 13, 2009

A second hello

Filed under: About, Nonprofit — Tags: , , , , , , , — kgilnack @ 3:05 am

Once upon a time, I introduced this blog as a place to remunerate on lessons from my work with the Providers’ Council (a nonprofit association of human service agencies), the Greater Boston Young Democrats, and how topics like technology and leadership intersect with these spheres. (I yet again remind you that all opinions on this site are my own and don’t reflect any of the organizations that I’m affiliated with)

Between election season in Boston, the Council’s upcoming convention & expo, and a surprisingly laborious website migration, my time has been diverted from writing up some of my other thoughts of our recent happenings.  I’ve missed our chats and excited to share some news that will help me recommit to spending more time writing here at https://kgilnack.wordpress.com.

This weekend I had a couple of serendipitous events intersect that have me eager to reinvest my time here.  First, a good friend of mine is earning her M.S. in Ecological Teaching and Learning, and as a part of what seems like an incredibility enriching program, she is interviewing teachers and activist-types on how they stay inspired (her project title is Inspiration in a Broken World).  I was fortunate not only to be invited to be interviewed, but to have the chance to reflect on what keeps me motivated, and what inspires my peers.  It’s a very interesting topic, and you can expect to see more tweeting (like this, this, this, and this), and a post to come later this week.

The second exciting piece of news I have to share is an amazing collaboration in the works among millennial nonprofit bloggers across the United States.  Many kudos go out to Allison Jones, who had this inspired notion and took the initiative to make it happen.  Allison has reached out to a diverse crowd of nonprofit bloggers who each have their own take on the sector and our place in it, and all of whom are committed to delivering – and supporting – quality nonprofit, leadership, and generational content.

I was honored to have her extend the invitation, and to be on a list that includes these great writers (all of whom deserve a place in your Google Reader)..

  • Elizabeth Clawson (@eclawson), Nonprofit Periscope – This is the place for commentary on specific news stories relevant to nonprofits; tips on media relations for nonprofity folks like yourselves;-and interviews with journalists who cover nonprofit beats (or something close to that).
  • Colleen Dilenschneider (@cdilly), Know Your Bone – As a young nonprofit and museum professional, I write about museums, exhibitions, community-based organizations, informal learning environments, issues facing the nonprofit sector, books, recent developments in the areas of art, history, or science and society, and my own adventures as a twenty-something on the move.
  • Trina Isakson (@telleni), Trina’s Nonprofit Blog – Nonprofit efficiency, strategy, technology, leadership and communication. Volunteerism, civic participation, youth engaged citizenship and the Millennial generation. Personal musings and Canadian content.
  • Kathrin Ivanovic (@KathrinOutLoud), The Diversity Projekt, http://thediversityprojekt.org – The Diversity Projekt’s aim is to increase awareness and understanding of race, racism, privilege, gender, sexism, homophobia, and other stereotypes, in an effort to provide individuals with the language and tools necessary to contribute to and advocate for human diversity in their own communities.
  • Allison Jones (@ajlovesya), Entry Level Living –  This blog deals with my professional and personal development-beginning right out of college.  Every time I turn around there is a discussion about the generation gap: how my generation perceives virtually every aspect of life (down to what exactly it means to live) drastically different from previous generations. I want this blog to be a place to further examine what those differences are.
  • Elisa M. Ortiz (@emortiz), Onward and Upward – This blog is my attempt to keep an eye on the nonprofit sector from the bottom up as well as an opportunity for me to share my thoughts and experiences as a young nonprofit professional and community activist. “Onward and Upward” refers to my own personal goals in advancing my career and life as well as the movement of nonprofits – we’re all working to be better.
  • Rosetta Thurman (@rosettathurman), Perspectives from the Pipeline – I’m a writer, speaker, professor and leadership development consultant who has been featured in articles about the nonprofit sector in the Washington Post, Nonprofit Quarterly, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy. I am also a professional blogger at Jobs for Change, where I share daily nonprofit career advice for young professionals like myself. I currently serve as the Director of Development and Special Programs at the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington where I direct the Future Executive Directors Fellowship and manage fundraising to support a $1.5M budget. I’m also the Principal Consultant of Thurman Consulting, providing speaking, training and consulting services to organizations working for social change in the areas of leadership development, diversity, and social media.
  • Tracy Webb (@blkgivesback), Black Gives Back – I’m a philanthropist living in the Washington, DC area with a passion for all things of giving back to one’s community. I’ve worked for various non profit organizations and witnessed many societal ills facing the black community: the effects of crack addiction on families and children, black women and the HIV epidemic and gang violence among others. This blog is dedicated to African Americans who care about our community by dedicating their time, talents and treasure to help those in need. BlackGivesBack will feature news stories, event pictures, celebrity philanthropy and profiles of those who are making a difference. I’ll even share pictures from my philanthropic events.
  • Tera Wokniak Qualls (@terawozqualls), Social Citizen – With this new version of Social Citizen, I hope to expand my learning and expertise in the areas of: community, engagement, women’s leadership, board development, organizational leadership & generational dynamics.  Look for posts with tips and stories about these topics, as well as the usually fan fare of occasional personal organization tips and quick quips from my life.

The next month will be madness (be sure to see the madness payoff by visiting our convention on 10/29 🙂 ), but starting today my new commitment is to share a new post at least once every two weeks (baby steps).  I know you have lots of other blogs to keep up with, but consider adding this site to your reader or subscribe to receive posts by email, so you know when the next post is up.

As always, let me know what you think! I’ve been promising for some time to talk about this site migration excitement (and I will, once it’s settled), and I have a few other topics in mind, but are there questions you wanted answered or topics you feel bloggers need to start talking about?

June 17, 2009

Examples of Innovation: Fundraising, Service Delivery, & Community Outreach

I had planned to write about what Rule 2 – open beats closed – of Twitter’s Ten Rules for Radical Innovators can mean for nonprofit innovators.  But, there were a few great pieces on nonprofit innovation in news lately that had me thinking about the way I think about innovation, and provide great examples for us to learn from.

Working in an association of nonprofit human service agencies I participate in a lot of discussions about how our sector can innovate, and how we can support it.  Lately we’ve been talking a lot about diversifying revenues, social enterprises, and other ways to innovate business practices.

And, in a way, associations have been helping industries in America innovate since they were recognized in federal tax law 1913.  For the last 33 years, for example, the Providers’ Council has used economies of scale to negotiate more competitive Dental and other Insurance coverages for our members, and we now have 8 partners that help nonprofits save money.

However, it’s important for nonprofit leaders to remember that there are many other, though perhaps more discrete, ways to innovate in your organization.

I first started thinking about this as I was reading MSNBC’s coverage of the pain that the nonprofit sector is in – and trends on how we’re facing it, which I should thank Amy Neumann (someone I’m glad to be following) for sharing.  Using Elkhart, Ind. as a case-study are experiencing, including the Elkhart County United WayElkhart County Salvation ArmyBig Brothers Big Sisters of Elkhart CountyChurch Without WallsChurch Community Services, and YWCA of Elkhart County.

After reading their thorough, excellent summary of the issues that many communities face – reduced giving for a variety of reasons and through a variety of sources + increased demand – I was expecting to read about how nonprofits were launching social enterprises; finding cheaper, greener energy; and otherwise innovating their revenue streams.

What I found was innovation in fundraising that reminded me to look beyond my preconceived notions of innovation.  So often we start thinking about our area of focus, our silo, our project at hand, and we might not think about areas on the opposite side of the organization that we can transform.  Whether it’s saving money, raising money, delivering services, advocating change, or any of the countless other aspects of an organization, there may be an opportunity to increase efficiency, efficacy, or other enhancement.

Here’s one great example that incorporates partnerships with businesses, technology, and a new look at how fundraisers can be held – virtually:

The [Elkhart County Salvation Army] staff also dreamed up a new fundraising plan: The “No Bells” auction launched in mid-May lists several hundred items online, everything from pizzas and autographed baseballs to cars and teeth-whitening service. The idea is to drum up cash through the auction for the Salvation Army while also creating some foot traffic for struggling local businesses.

Another mission-driven new initiative I want to mention from this article was led by the Elkhart County United Way who, with “less cash to disburse … parlayed its considerable clout into a new role — as coordinator of the county’s biggest food drive to date.”  They created a true community collaboration by leading

an effort to connect six local pantries to form a county-wide food network — both  United Way members and non-members. The organization enrolled the local newspaper to distribute the food donation bags, implored local sports teams and congregations to provide volunteers and called together church leaders from all over the county to get behind the food drive.

This is a very inspiring example of how a community can band together to ensure the most vulnerable among them don’t go hungry.  It also shows how an organization can stay dynamic and respond to circumstances; the United Way recognized a new opportunity to help lead the nonprofit community and seized it.

Serendipitously, almost immediately after finishing this article, I caught a recap on the great action that the United Way Mass Bay & Merrimack Valley held.  Meghan Keaney (@MeghKeaney, Director of Communications at the United Way), other staff, and many, many community members held a flash mob at South Station to “awareness of a very real problem tied to the recession we’re suffering through — a falloff in charitable giving.” (here’s more info if you’re curious)

This is a fantastic example of an organization leveraging social media and a new type of action to generate community and media awareness for their cause.  Be sure you check out the video clips from the WBZ story.

Each of these examples reflect organizations that recognized the innovation imperative created by our current challenging economic times and applied them to various areas of their organization – from fundraising, service delivery, to community outreach. Two prevailing themes seem to include leveraging technology such as social media and online auctioning and creating meaningful collaborations and partnership.  One constant is thinking differently and trying new things.

Just remember to stay innovative – even as you innovate.  There are a lot of moving parts in every organization and lots of areas to miss opportunities to do something different.  If you notice that you’re focused on innovating one process, program, or aspect of your organization, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself, or others around you: what else can we do differently? what haven’t we thought about yet?

Also, remember that while innovation starts from the top, there are many talented employees in your organization who may have unique insights into opportunities for improvement in their area of the organization.  Be sure to leverage that knowledge to make sure you’re not missing opportunities and empower others to think innovatively.

So what new strategies and tactics is your organization taking on? Whether in business practices, communications, fundraising, service delivery, or something else – I’d love to hear about the great examples you’d like to share.

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