I had an opportunity to attend the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations Annual Conference (#2012geo) with our Financial Thrivability Partner Rob Lane of Kerkering Barberio recently in Seattle.
The focus of this conference was funders, and how the organizations with the money can be more effective working with their nonprofit recipients. A good amount of time was also spent on how funders thinking and behaving creatively, and willing to take some risk, have the ability to create new realities.
As one who is new to the philanthropy and the nonprofit worlds, I find the interaction among funders and nonprofits (nonprofits are those agencies receiving the money from foundations) “interesting”.
I find the philanthropy industry like many industries: 1) Things are done a certain way (because they have always been that way); 2) Risk averse; 3) Insular; and, 4) Being challenged by “new” money and “new” thought leaders. And I can say the same of the nonprofit industry.
So, in other words, neither is different from many industries in these aspects.
BUT THINGS ARE CHANGING.
This conference featured a bevy of thought provokers and leaders determined to challenge the status quo and change/evolve philanthropy.
Beth Kanter is a social media leader in the nonprofit industry. We had the opportunity to speak with her about using social media, and one look at her blog will show you dynamic she is.
Leslye Louie of Civic Ventures spoke of a fellowship program her organization has created (and replicated in several areas) pairing retired private sector people with nonprofits needing expertise.
We met with Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, who described the various loan, funding, and management initiatives his organization is involved in.
These are but three examples of many connections made during the conference.
The themes to and from funders throughout the conference included:
- To think “outside the box” you may need to involve individuals from outside of your industry and area of focus.
- You have money and don’t need to show a financial return (like a for-profit entity), so you should take some risk. Try new things.
- Partner with your fund recipients to help them succeed. Look at things from the nonprofits’ perspectives: 1) Is it realistic for a business to operate on only 1-year funding increments? 2) Are the reporting requirements “need to have” or “nice to have”? 3) Fund operations and overhead. How can a business run with staff, electricity etc.
- Share what you learn so other organization (funders and nonprofits) can learn and leverage your experiences.
There were many other examples, and this truly was an engaging conference.
I was inspired by the energy and intellect throughout the three-day event and learning that there is a strong desire (and know how) to leverage the monies so generously donated by individuals and organizations.