We're excited to announce our latest conversation starter: #ynpngiving.
With #ynpngiving, we hope to engage our members in conversation about where you give, how you give, and why you give. We're not just professionals within the nonprofit sector, we're also donors.
Each week, we'll be featuring one #ynpngiving post on our blog that discusses an issue relating to nonprofit giving trends. Throughout the next three weeks, we'll be sharing relevant #ynpngiving articles via social media and asking questions to get you thinking about how to build you own tradition of giving, what type of giving is most effective and more.
So how can you engage with the conversation starter? As always, we want to hear your opinion via social media! We promise plenty of interactive content to get you thinking about the latest trends in nonprofit giving, and what that means for young professionals. If you find an interesting article, tweet us using #ynpngiving! You can borrow articles or questions we raise to use at your next local chapter meeting as well. There are lots of ways to get engaged, and we look forward to a robust conversation with you!
We hope that you're as excited as we are to deep dive into this topic for the next three weeks. If you have any questions or topics within #ynpngiving that you would like explored more, please leave them in the comments below!
If you’re like me, you read through the 2014 Nonprofit Finance Fund State of the Sector report and breathed a sigh of relief. Not because the 2014 report paints a particularly rosy picture of where we are as a society and as a sector, mind you, but because the results of the 2009 survey are still seared into so many of our memories.
Yeah, you remember that survey--the one that spelled out so plainly what all of us were experiencing in our neighborhoods and our organizations: soaring demand for critical services (93% of organizations providing these services reported an increase in need) and plummeting resources (62% and 43% of organizations braced for foundation and government funding cuts respectively). The majority of respondents planned to operate at a deficit that year. Those were some pretty dark days, friends.
And like I said, it’s not that the 2014 report is calling for 7 days of high temps and sun. 80% of this year’s respondents are still anticipating increased need for their communities. But far fewer are operating at a deficit and the year over year comparison shows that funding prospects are essentially expected to remain level. So, while we're at a place where we're no longer in freefall, the sense memory of the freefall is still pretty acute.
What better time to have real conversations about the relationship between funders and grantees?
As you know from past posts, YNPN and EPIP have made a commitment to advancing the conversation about the power dynamics that exist between funders and grantees. We call this the Beans & Cornbread convo as a reference to the Louis Jordan & Tympany Five song about things that go together but sometimes just can’t get along. Rahsaan and I have been open about the fact that we don’t exactly have a 12-step plan for “advancing the conversation” but we do have a strong, shared desire to actively and thoughtfully experiment.
Members of YNPN & EPIP's NYC chapters talking funder-grantee relationships
As another step in the direction of figuring out how funders and grantees can go together and get along better, earlier this month we hosted a pilot dialogue circle which brought together 3 representatives from YNPN NYC and 3 representatives from EPIP NYC.
Over pizza and snacks, facilitator Lucretia John (formerly of the Funding Exchange) guided the group through some introductory questions about identity, hopes, and fears for the conversation, then opened up the floor for participants to reflect on three basic questions:
Who has power to create change in communities?
Who sets the priorities for change efforts?
Who defines impact?
As you can imagine, the responses to these questions raised even more questions. More importantly, early feedback tells us that the experience also highlighted the shared identities, goals, and attitudes of folks in the room, as well as an eagerness to learn more about each other and how we can use these stronger relationships to change how power plays out in social change work.
This is great news for the vast majority of this year’s NFF respondents who reported that they can’t have real conversations with their funders about anything other than expanding programs. And we all know that it takes more than that to build stronger communities.
You’ll be seeing a fuller synopsis of the pilot conversation and plans for next steps soon. In the meantime, check out the NFF Report and tell us in the comments below where you’re seeing signs of hope or how you think we should continue the conversation.
This weekend our National Board and Launchpad Fellows had the opportunity to come together from across the country and meet in person to discuss what's next for YNPN in 2014.
These retreat opportunities are so special and so important to the work that we do. YNPN is incredibly grateful for the support of the Denver Foundation, which hosted our most recent retreat; the Ford Foundation, which hosted our January 2013 retreat in New York; and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which regularly opens up its Baltimore office to the YNPN team.
The support we receive from these organizations is not just logistical and financial. Most importantly, we are grateful for their enthusiastic support of our mission and the work that we do. Thank you to the Denver Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation for your #nplove!
Image credit: Library of Congress; Demonstrators participating in the Poor People's March at Lafayette Park and on Connecticut Avenue, Washington, D.C.
Half a century ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. If they are aware of it at all, most Americans think of the march as the venue for Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech. Some of us who remember the march recall it as a march to redress economic conditions—the disparities in income and employment that afflicted people of color, then as now…except that the economy today for people of color as a whole is much worse than 50 years ago.
Five years later, Rev. King led the Poor People’s Campaign back to Washington at a time when national unemployment was under four percent and unemployment for blacks was less than seven percent. Compare that to last month: In July, the national unemployment rate was 7.4 percent, with the white unemployment rate at 6.6 percent. For blacks, the rate was 12.5 percent—almost double that of whites. The number of people employed in the U.S. is less than it was seven years ago even though the nation’s population has increased by 18,000,000 people. A February census report put the poverty rate for African Americans at over 25 percent. In the black community, 39 percent of children lived below the federal poverty level; among Latinos, 34 percent. The most astounding (and yet relatively unknown) figure on poverty in the U.S. is that, as of 2011, there were 1.65 million households in this country in which people lived on $2.00 a day or less per person. That is the definition of “extreme poverty,” a condition people think is associated with developing countries and the world’s commitment to cut by half over the next two decades, but it exists in the affluent United States itself.
Where is the March on Washington or Poor People’s Campaign of today to protest these conditions? After an election campaign spent giving poverty a wide berth, President Obama has only just now begun to utter the “p-word” directly and raise concerns about job creation for working-class people, who have been relegated to low-wage, shorter work-week jobs, and about increasing the minimum wage. But action commensurate with those words has been limited to an array of campaign-style speeches and tours. Most Democrats in Congress generally stick to a focus on the middle class and rarely veer toward straightforward discussion of the need for explicit and robust anti-poverty programs.
One of the contributing factors is the silence of the nonprofit sector. As Pablo Eisenberg wrote this week in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “In the last decade or so, nonprofits have stopped caring about the plight of the poor.”
“Today, matters of poverty seem to be off the radar screen of nonprofits,” Eisenberg says. “Most nonprofits…remain satisfied in pursuing their more-narrow agendas, whether related to the environment, education, or gay marriage. They show little concern about the ravages brought on the country by income inequality, homelessness, hunger, and unemployment. That couldn’t be more evident than in the failure of nonprofits to rush to oppose the massive assault on food stamps now working its way through the House of Representatives.”
Undoubtedly, many of the nation’s top nonprofits will bristle at being called out in Eisenberg’s op-ed, but there’s no doubt that the ardor of the nonprofit sector to tackle poverty based on calculations of political acceptability or access to funding has waned. It is hardly in evidence the way it was when the nation rallied around the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964, leading to the creation of a critical infrastructure of poverty-fighting institutions and programs: VISTA, Head Start, Legal Services, the Jobs Corps, Community Health Centers, and the Community Action Program.
Can the nonprofit sector rediscover the “decency,” as Eisenberg puts it, to be concerned about economic inequities and social justice? He asks whether Darren Walker, the incoming president of the Ford Foundation, and other prominent nonprofit and philanthropic leaders might “find the courage to lead a campaign to put poverty back on the agendas of nonprofits.”
While Eisenberg probably targeted Walker partly because of his roots as a leader of a nonprofit community development corporation in Harlem, Walker will be now heading a top foundation and, in theory, responding to the activism and initiatives of nonprofit leaders on the front lines. So we asked nonprofit leaders themselves what they thought might make nonprofits take up the cause of fighting poverty and make it an integral part of the identity of nonprofits of all stripes. Here is what some of them said:
- Once the executive director of the National Council of Nonprofits and the board chair of the National Council of La Raza, and most recently the interim CEO of the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, Audrey Alvarado has been pushing for revived attention to issues of poverty for decades. “I’m afraid that in our own struggles to survive the economic challenges we all face, we have forgotten the true purpose of our work,” Alvarado writes. “Have we become hardened by the messages that those in need, the poor, deserve what they get?...The nonprofit sector must again rise up and be the flag bearers for a caring and compassionate society. Let’s not forgot our roots and work to eliminate the poverty divide in this country.”
- Moises Loza, the executive director of the Housing Assistance Council, a national advocate for rural housing and community economic development, notes the significance of poverty in rural America. Eighty-six percent of 429 persistently poor counties are entirely rural. His prescription? “Nonprofits have been retreating while fighting to keep programs of assistance from being eliminated or drastically reduced. This ‘fight to keep what we have’ has taken our time and energy from a rigorous offense to become the poverty warriors that got us into this line of work,” Loza writes. “Keeping what we have that works is important, but advocacy and outrage should not take a back seat. We also have allowed others to dictate our agenda. We shouldn’t parrot the agenda others are setting, we should set our own and as nonprofits speak for those who continue to be forgotten.”
- Brenda Peluso, the director of public policy for the Maine Association of Nonprofits, joins Loza in the call for a reemphasis on nonprofit advocacy. “To turn this around, nonprofits need to be more active in public policy, but I understand the reasons they don’t—lack of time and money, fear of confrontation, fear of turning donors off, restrictions on lobbying (none with federal money) and lack of understanding what they can and can’t do.” The executive director of the Maine Association, Scott Schnapp, underscores Peluso’s call for increased policy advocacy, but cautions that the roots of the problem are in political campaigns. “The concern among politicians that their opponents will utilize any efforts to address poverty related issues as a campaign weapon is largely paralyzing them. In an environment with a constant election cycle, where more and more money is necessary to run competitive elections, this fear, as well as their concerns about potentially alienating donors, has effectively muzzled strong political conviction around this issue.”
- “I would simply say that it’s not only the politicians or the nonprofit sector that’s not hitting the problem of poverty squarely on the head, but foundations have side stepped the issue too,” says Robert Jackson, a Mississippi state senator as well as the executive director of the Quitman County Development Organization in Mississippi’s Delta region. “My question is how do you get foundations to get off metrics and become concerned about poor people’s existence, from day to day?...Nonprofits need to refocus foundations squarely on the issue of poverty rather than where they have driven off the road now onto wherever.”
All well and good from fine people truly dedicated to fighting poverty, but these statements are stronger on the analysis of nonprofits’ not taking on poverty than they are about what might turn the nonprofit sector around. We would add to their comments with these specific suggestions to reanimate the nonprofit sector to stand up against poverty:
If the problem is that foundation funders aren’t taking this issue on, it’s time for the nonprofit sector to place the issue of poverty at foundations’ doorsteps. Could it jeopardize relationships with funders to be so bold and forthright and call them out, as Jackson has done, for their pathetic support of an anti-poverty movement? We would bet the following: Those nonprofits that have the courage to speak out—loudly—to foundations and peer grantees will be the ones that establish profile and get recognition for the ability to tell the truth. Nonprofits shouldn’t argue themselves into a paralytic corner, but speak out. They might learn, in consequence, that the dangers of punitive reprisals by foundations for pushing and prodding on their grantmaking are overstated. Many foundations will welcome the candor of straight-talking nonprofits, and many foundation program officers will find nonprofit candor a useful tool for them to make their arguments with foundation execs and trustees for better anti-poverty grantmaking.
If the problem is an unwillingness of nonprofits to deviate from the political line of the Obama administration, that is even worse. President Obama needs a vocal, mobilized nonprofit to call him on his shortfalls of his actual policy agenda for nonprofits. On national nonprofit issues, the National Council on Nonprofits has been one of the rare “nonprofit infrastructure” organizations to remind the White House about nonprofit needs when it appeared that the White House showed evidence of 501(c)(3) memory lapses concerning provisions of the Affordable Care Act. As the primary deliverers of services to the poor, nonprofits should be calling on the president to restore funding that had previously cut, to fight against the continuation of the sequester, and to remember where his constituency’s policy priorities lie. The president gives a good speech about moving the economy, but it’s time for a lot more than campaign-style speeches. If nonprofits, as we have suggested and Eisenberg implies, have declined to take on the president because of some desire to support him against Republican congressional obstructionism, they will be allowing a centrist president to continue a decades-long reduction of the federal anti-poverty commitment.
Loza and Schnapp identify another problem: the imbalance in campaign finance in national elections means that the wealthy can buy lots of influence with their largesse. Poor communities will never be able to match the rich corporate donors that ply candidates with campaign contributions. With the self-protecting, self-serving attitudes of the affluent in full sway in recent decades, nonprofits have to realize that an anti-poverty agenda will be smothered in lip service and squashed somewhere between the White House and Congress. It will never succeed unless the power of the rich to purchase candidates is eliminated. Putting campaign finance reform on the nonprofit public policy advocacy agenda is a substantive step toward promoting stronger anti-poverty activism in the nonprofit sector.
Eisenberg called out a number of national organizations for their obsession with the charitable deduction—still hardly in peril—while remaining unwilling to make poverty part of their agendas. It’s time that these nonprofit associations and leadership groups recognize that they can no longer hide behind the deduction as a proxy for concern for the poor. A significant portion of tax-deductible charitable donations doesn’t get anywhere near the poor. Whatever the merits of maintaining the charitable deduction in its current form, the nonprofit sector has to blend advocacy into its anti-poverty work, and that means advocacy for government funding that’s vitally important to make nonprofits present and effective to the poverty fight. Eisenberg and Alvarado are both right that fighting poverty is a core value of the nonprofit sector, long forgotten in many parts, but legitimately an item worth raising on the agendas of nonprofits and foundations across the board.
The president may be reluctant to mention much about the poor, even though he doesn’t face a reelection battle. This is the issue where nonprofits can’t swallow their tongues because Obama is “one of us” or someone who says the right stuff. It’s time for nonprofits to call each other out regarding what they are doing to address the widening socio-economic disparities in our nation.
This video - Dan Pallotta's The way we think about charity is dead wrong - has been rocketing around the internet over the past couple of weeks. Numerous people have emailed it to me and a couple have shared it on my facebook wall. All of them have been asking what I think.
I finally had a chance to sit down and watch it a few days ago and, honestly, what strikes me most about it is not the central message about how our emphasis on overhead misses both the point and the potential of the nonprofit sector. I don’t think Dan Pallota is saying anything that folks like Kim Klein or GIFT have been making for years - though I always appreicate when someone’s able to underscore an important point eloquently. Mr. Palotta does just that in his TED Talk, so I am very grateful to him.
What struck me most about Dan Pallotta's talk is that he’s trying to shine a bright light on something that isn't necessarily controversial. The vast majority of us agree that the way we think about nonprofit operations is broken. Even folks outside of the sector who don't have an understanding of the ins and outs of running a nonprofit organization understand the simplicity of the argument that you can't solve big, complex problems with meager investments. What's difficult is where to and how to begin to change something that has become culturally comfortable, however dysfunctional. What are the first steps an individual, let alone a sector takes in making a fundamental shift in the way that it thinks and operates?
Last month, Rahsaan Harris, executive director of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, and I posted a blog and sent eblasts to our respective networks about something else that most of us agree is broken - power dynamics between funders and grantees in the nonprofit sector. We titled the eblast Beans & Cornbread - Rahsaan's tongue-in-cheek reference to the Louis Jordan & Tympany Five song about things that go together but sometimes just can't get along. But we also talked seriously about this need for a fundamental shift in the way that these dynamics play out and what we see as the role of our generation in facing these issues.
What Rahsaan and I found in our conversations surrounding the post was that agreeing that the fundamental relationship between the nonprofit sector and the philanthropic sector is problematic wasn't hard. Agreeing that EPIP and YNPN have a unique role to play in addressing these dynamics wasn’t hard either. It’s a conversation that our organizations have actually been having for years and our members are very ready for based on the numerous responses we got to the survey that accompanied the post. What's hard is figuring out what to do next.
After we sent out the post, many responded enthusiastically, “Saying, okay - what’s the plan?” Here’s the honest answer - we’re not really sure. EPIP and YNPN have taken important steps by co-facilitating power dynamics workshops together but know that this is only one piece of the puzzle. We know that it’s important to set the stage at the National level but also need our members to be talking one on one. We know that this conversation has and will take years (as fundamental shifts tend to) and it will take many of us working patiently together. So we're as curious and excited as everyone else to see where it will lead.
What we do know is that folks are ready - they’re past ready. So we’re ready too. And we’re looking forward to figuring this out together.
The recent article in the Wall Street Journal on small charities being forced by bigger ones to change their names, colors and other portions of their branding really disturbed me. So now we, compassionate servants of social missions, are colorists?
I do understand the need to have a strong identity, but if you are constantly suing the other charities and keeping them from their mission, something's horribly wrong.
Let's not forget that we are social missions and well-run, well-financed organizations. If you really think your organization is losing money and/or manpower, go back to the drawing board and find a brand that can't be duplicated. Consider a merger even, especially if both groups are fighting for the same cause.
For too long, charities and other nonprofit social mission entities have been caught up with being like for-profit, publicly-traded corporations. Unlike shareholders that win if you maximize profit, you can lose your donors and stakeholders if they feel their money is being wasted or spent on overhead at the expense of the social mission.
Keeping that in mind, either re-write your mission such that it supports these type of brand defending activities or get back to funneling your money to the cause at hand.
What do you think? Is it ok to protect your slogans, logos or other branding activities at the expense of yours (and other similar groups' ) core mission?
Nominations are now being accepted for the inaugural American Express NGen Leadership Award. This award will honor one under-40 nonprofit professional who has had a transformative impact on addressing society’s critical needs.
All nominees must be under-40, work for a U.S.-based nonprofit or non-governmental organization, and have had a transformative, measurable impact within their field, beyond his or her organization. The winner of the American Express NGen Leadership Award will be announced in late August, and will be recognized during the IS Annual Conference in Atlanta, October 20-22. Nominations will be accepted through Monday, June 14. Self-nomination is not admissible for this award.
This award extends Independent Sector’s commitment to encouraging emerging leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic community. All under-40 nonprofit professionals are invited to join IS for the NGen Program at the IS Annual Conference in Atlanta this October, which will offer expanded programming and networking opportunities for emerging leaders. Visit the IS website to learn more about how you can register for NGen: Moving Nonprofit Leaders from Next to Now.
We spent a lot of time discussing the Executive Director position this weekend and the impending need for new leadership that the sector will have to accommodate for. And while the Executive Director is often the title associated with nonprofit leadership, it is by no means the only title for leaders.
I want to stress to my fellow YNPNers and beyond that you can lead without becoming an Executive Director. Certainly, there is always a sense of pride and excitement when meeting and/or hearing about Gen X'ers (or even Millennials!) that are doing well as young Executive Directors of an organization. It is by no means a small task to run a nonprofit organization, and to do it early in life is a great achievement. I know several, and I have great respect for each of them.
However, I dedicate this post to those who do not see the ED title in their future, yet still want to lead. You can lead now, as an associate or program coordinator. You can lead in YNPN or in your community. EDs are not the only leadership positions available.
I believe that the vast majority of us share this in common: We want to have a strong professional career, make a decent living, and do good at the same time. But how that 'strong professional career' in the nonprofit sector looks like might be different from person to person, and that is ok. I spoke with a YNPNer this weekend who said that he would never want to be a ED, because he wants to remain in constant and direct contact with the people that his organization serves. I, personally, don't see myself as wanting an ED position. That is not because I don't believe myself to be qualified or able, but because I would rather devote myself entirely to a particular area that I am passionate about, as opposed to being in charge of everything. Of course, I am young and things may change. But the fact of the matter is, you can lead from wherever you are in the sector. Each nonprofit serves the community in some way, whether it is the local community or beyond. Leaders throughout organizations are needed in order for us to serve to the best of our ability.
Let us not forget that a hard working program coordinator can often find him/herself doing the workload of two or more staff persons in half the amount of time while still maintaining a smile and loving his/her work. I'm not meaning to put the "badge" on our shoulders... you know what I'm taking about... the "feel sorry for me because I do such a great thing but I am so overworked and underpaid and...." No. This is not what I mean. What I am saying is that term "leader" does not necessarily imply "Executive Director."
Whether the golden ED title is hanging high in your head or if you have other plans, you can still lead. Volunteer with YNPN. Become a resource for your colleagues and for the community. Work hard at your job and never stop looking for ways to grow and learn. Take control of your career and lead it in the direction you want it to go. You are not limited. Lead in your own way.
Here is to all of the 'young' nonprofit 'leaders' no matter the title. I look up to each of you and couldn't be more excited to share this great YNPN network with such amazing people.
In 2006, a study surveyed numerous nonprofits with revenues greater than $250,000. In that study, the projected growth of the nonprofit sector and the need for new management suggested that the number of new managers needed to meet the need would require attracting 50% of all MBA graduates from every school in the country in the next 10 years. Over the next 10 years, the nonprofit sector will potentially need 640,000 new senior managers. Even if the sector begins consolidating and merging together, the survey still suggested that at least 330,000 new senior managers would still be needed.
Another study done in 2006 on Executive Director positions in nonprofits found that 75% of the Executive Directors surveyed were planning to leave their positions within the next 5 years (although they did plan to stay within the sector.) 70% said that they were planning to leave their organization at some point. Less than 1 in 3 had discussed succession planning with their Board.
There is a discussion that needs to be happening between those that are leading now and those that want to lead in the future. Here at the YNPN Annual Conference, it seemed that almost everyone is aware that these conversations are happening, but they are happening separately. Next generation leadership talks about it and so does the current leadership, but the conversations are not crossing between different generations.
Today, our keynote speaker, Robert Egger, suggested that our society does not recognize the incredible impact of the successes of the nonprofits. When we put people back to work, give young people better education, when we feed and house people, we are not only helping people, but we are helping society. The more people working, the better financial situation a community will be in. When people have food and housing, they can focus on their other needs. I am afraid that some of the nonprofit sector is making this same mistake. We are so focused on our own missions, that we are forgetting the impact that our fellow nonprofit organizations have on us. Nonprofits are afraid to invest in younger staff because the likelihood is that the younger staff person will leave. But better leadership in the nonprofit sector benefits the entire sector, not just a particular organization. Better education will ultimately equal a smaller need in employment, food and housing assistance. People that have jobs will be better equipped to afford taking care of their families. When one nonprofit is successful, we are all impacted in a positive way. Missions are important, but it may not be such a good idea to see ourselves as so separate from one another.
And of course, for young nonprofit professionals, we cannot always sit and wait. We must take control of our careers. If we aren't finding the professional development we need at our jobs, we might need to look for it elsewhere. Develop a personal brand. Join a board. Volunteer your skills and services. Go to conferences and learning seminars on your own time with your own money if you can. It can be done.
Of course, if the leadership gap projects are accurate, we will need both the next generation and the current generation of leadership to work together to ensure a viable and productive nonprofit sector for the future. Our communities will need one, and they deserve to have one.