Reflections from a Nonprofit Ally

I just returned from the bi-monthly meeting of the Nonprofit Allies, a group of about a dozen leaders of Minnesota nonprofits’ "infrastructure" organizations. The group includes not only the ones all of us would think of – Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Minnesota Council of Foundations, Charities Review Council, MAP for Nonprofits, the Nonprofits Assistance Fund, Fieldstone Alliance, LISC, and nonprofit centers at Hamline, St. Thomas and ours at the Humphrey Institute, but also groups that focus on newer, smaller, or industry-specific nonprofits, such as Springboard for the Arts, ArtsLab, and Legal Corps.

Several things struck me. First and most obvious – we are extremely fortunate in Minnesota to have the range, quantity and quality of these infrastructure groups. Even in my scholarly circles, I hear about how unique Minnesota is in terms of these resources for training, knowledge development, public policy advocacy, and so forth. Very exciting projects are happening at all of the places listed above and I strongly encourage folks to check them out.

Second, we are working together through information-sharing, joint projects, and even some consistent "messaging." This latter point was reinforced at today’s meeting where we spent a lot of time discussing the impact of the current financial crisis on nonprofits. How is and will the crisis affect giving by foundations and individuals? The ability of the United Way to raise corporate dollars? The state budget deficit? Increased numbers of nonprofits going after commercial dollars and exploring "social enterprise?" We all agreed that, while answers to these questions are not yet clear, nonprofits need to be very conservative in their financial and programmatic strategies. Boards of directors need to step up their ability in both the short and long term to be good stewards of their organization’s assets. And, as individuals, we all need to continue to donate resources to these nonprofits.

What are you seeing? Experiencing? What do you think will happen in the future in terms of nonprofits’ financial and programmatic strategies? What about the responsibilities of boards here?

We are fortunate indeed to have such strong infrastructure organizations and must continue to work together for an innovative and sustainable nonprofit sector.

Comments

I agree that the Nonprofit Allies group is a great resource. I'm with Fieldstone Alliance and we've put together some resources for dealing with the economic downturn. It seems that everyone has something to say on the topic. If any of you are aware of good resources that I should add to our site, please let me know. I'm also interested in other ways to collaborate more deeply to get vital information out. Thanks.

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