Creating Philanthropic Impact through Strong Nonprofits

Jeffrey Byrne + Associates, Inc. was delighted to host Kim Meredith (left), Executive Director of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, as our first speaker in the 2017 501(c) Success National Speaker Series. Kim joined us on Thursday, February 23, to share her insights on social innovation and the power of philanthropy to ignite ideas and solutions for the world’s most complex problems.

In her keynote address, Kim touched on current trends in philanthropy, the benefits of bridging nonprofits and corporations and the keys to good nonprofit governance. The overarching message in Kim’s keynote address is the importance of strategic planning, thinking and innovation in effective nonprofit governance. Nonprofits have enormous potential to be catalysts for social change, but impact depends on a willingness from leadership and Boards to focus on outcome-oriented philanthropy.

Kim touched on a number of trends that are shaping the way philanthropy implements social change. Some of these trends include:

  • Place-based philanthropy – an emerging focus on community and community foundations, investing funds within a strategic area and tracking growth.
  • Ethical/responsible data use – all nonprofits should be collecting and storing data on donors and funders, but many are asking what the parameters are for the ethical and safe use of this sensitive information. There are no regulations for accountability, transparency, privacy and security surrounding data collection and it’s something more nonprofits should be considering.
  • Generational Behavior – seasoned nonprofit professionals could learn something from the next generation. A common attribute among young people is their willingness to fail and learn from their mistakes. The end result is almost always growth, development and eventually, success. Is this something that we support in the nonprofit sector? Perhaps we should.
  • Collective Impact Initiatives – an intentional way of working together and sharing information for the purpose of solving a complex problem. Participants from nonprofits, grantmaking organizations, the business community and government share a vision of change and a commitment to solve a problem by coordinating their work and agreeing on shared goals.
  • Randomized Control Trials –  bring in a scientific lens on philanthropy and show that there is evidence and research behind these big ideas fueling social change.

Nonprofit Governance Falls Short

Kim also investigated the importance of strategic planning in good nonprofit governance. Prefacing her remarks with a side-by-side comparison on nonprofit and corporate differences, Kim drove home the value of running a nonprofit in the same way a CEO would a business – with a focus on growth and development. Growth will look different for every nonprofit, but the underlying theme is the same. If you want to make an impact, set goals and make a plan to achieve those goals.

Times are Changing for Nonprofit Leaders

Following Kim’s keynote presentation, she addressed a select group of nonprofit and community leaders on how to plan for the future of their organizations. We can assume that changes in government safety net appropriations are on the horizon and nonprofits should be prepared for those cutbacks when and if they come to pass. Now is the time to prepare a contingency plan that can anticipate and address these challenges. Kim urged senior leaders to consider the following when planning for the future:

  • Composition of your Board – consider diversifying your board with multiple women, people of color and millennials. This will help your Board think differently and usher the organization into the future.
  • Mergers and partnerships – are worth considering when the right organization presents itself at the right time.
  • Engaging Board members in strategic planning – take advantage of your Board’s expertise. You should have a handful of business leaders serving on your Board. Use their knowledge to your advantage. That’s what they are there for!
  • Diversified Funding – do not rely too heavily on one source of funding. Diversified sources of funding can help you weather the storm should another economic disaster or other external factor take a toll on your funding.
  • Next Generation – In 2012-2014, 70% of millennials donated to a nonprofit and 60% volunteered their time. Millennials want to share their skills with nonprofits, but organizations need to make it easy for them to get involved. Make a plan to attract millennials to your cause.

Kim’s insight showed the immense potential of nonprofits to implement change. All it takes is commitment from us, the nonprofit professionals, to change our perspective on what good governance means and how it is implemented.

What’s Next for the 501(c) Success Series?  

Our next 501(c) Success National Speaker Series program will feature  Dr. Patrick Rooney, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research. Dr. Rooney will present the always-anticipated Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy on Friday, June 16. Watch for more details from JB+A and Nonprofit Connect in the coming months.

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