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6/27/2017
Executive Director (E2E) Peer Networking Session (Wilmington)

6/27/2017
A Mini-Series on Collaborative Based Outcomes (Education)

6/27/2017
A Mini-Series on Collaborative Based Outcomes (Economic Development)

6/28/2017
Executive Director (E2E) Peer Networking Session (Dover)

7/11/2017
Board Chair Basics (Wilmington)

 

 

Delaware Nonprofits: Endless Discoveries
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DANA's new President and CEO Sheila Bravo reflects on her discovery of DANA and the nonprofit sector in Delaware.

 

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Top tags: nonprofits  Delaware  Board of Directors  Board Member  collaboration  budget  government  Calendar  CEO  DANA  funding  grantmakers  leaders  Nonprofit  Nonprofit Finance Fund  partnerships  strategy  Adaptive capacity  Association of Fundraising Professionals  Community  David Grant  DEFAC  Delaware Community Foundation  DuPont  economy  employees  Endless Discoveries  giving Tuesday  Good to Great  grants 

Adaptive Capacity Makes All the Difference

Posted By Sheila Bravo, Tuesday, January 12, 2016

This weekend I went to see the move The Big Short, the behind-the-scenes story of what led to the 2008 Great Recession. Though there were many insights from the film, one thing that I took away was how many signs there were that something was wrong with the housing market. Yet, despite the warnings, the perception that the housing market would always be a safe bet overshadowed the realities of blooming adjustable mortgages, suburban communities filled with foreclosed homes, and people securing mortgages that they did not have the incomes to support. Even as some credible experts came forward and made public speeches about the housing bubble and its future demise, there was little belief that this would actually become reality. 

Since the recession, the idea that you can expect anything to be a safe bet, or that the way the world is today is the way it will always be, is wildly naïve. Technology, social media, leadership turnover, and the political and economic climate are wreaking havoc on the status quo. To sustain an organization in 2016 and into the future, leaders, boards of directors, and the organization itself must have high levels of adaptive capacity in order to navigate a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous climate (VUCA).

Adaptive capacity is the ability to understand the environment (internal and external) as it is today, what it may be in the future, and respond effectively to address the pending climate changes through innovation, connecting, and inquisitiveness. This means scanning the landscape, staying on top of trends, as well as networking and collaborating to leverage the resources in the community system. It means managing the organization’s vulnerabilities, and creating scenarios of ‘what if’ so a nonprofit can respond to a crisis, in addition to reach out and capture new opportunities.

The basis for adaptive capacity can be found in Peter Senge’s 1990 seminal work The Fifth Discipline. Senge outlines the principles of a learning organization  - where members are continuously seeking improvement to enhance their capabilities and achieve what they want. Since the book’s release, many leading leadership and organizational research institutions have studied how leaders and organizations respond to change. 

Recently, Jim Collins’ Great by Choice profiles why some organizations thrive during turbulent times. What Collins found is that these organizations had leaders who were disciplined, used facts to inform decisions, and were more paranoid than those leading the organizations that did not thrive. They planned for worse case scenarios, and they were methodical in their innovation.

Last night at the Delaware State Chamber’s 179th Annual Dinner, our political leaders talked about the changing times, and how this can lead to opportunities. Senator Carper said it well: “Under the mud there is a pony.”  Leaders and nonprofit boards who embrace a learning culture, look outward, and take initiative to change the status quo will most likely be the first to find that pony and ride it into the sunset.

Sheila

Tags:  Adaptive capacity  Board of Directors  Delaware  nonprofits  State Chamber 

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New Years Tip: Create an Organizational Calendar

Posted By Sheila Bravo, Monday, December 28, 2015

Imagine these scenarios:

  • A nonprofit submits a request for funding only to be turned down due to failure to meet prior grant requirements.
  • A nonprofit cannot reapply for a contract because they did not turn in the necessary reports. 
  • A nonprofit learns they lost their tax-deductible status since they did follow IRS rules for filing.

It may sound surprising, but it happens, and not that infrequently. In many of the cases above, leadership transitions resulted in the loss of internal accountability for following up on the commitments the organization made in order to receive funding, get a contract, or even retain their nonprofit status. Or, in the throws of being focused on day-to-day operations, the nonprofit forgot they made a commitment to a grant maker to report on the results of the initiative that was funded. 

A simple solution to all this is to create an organizational calendar. Creating such a document helps nonprofit boards and executive staff stay on top of critical milestones. This not only includes board meeting dates, or special event dates, but also key activities that the organization must follow through on to meet commitments and monitor its mission.

One of the top concerns I heard by grant makers and government funders is the lack of follow-through on the part of nonprofits in providing timely reports on progress made possible by their financial support. This is not just a strict protocol, but a real requirement in which they have to report to their board, or in the case of the government, to other government officials on the use of funds. When a nonprofit fails to submit their information in a timely manner, they negatively impact the very people who are financially supporting them.

Here are some ideas on what to include in an organizational calendar:

  • Board meeting dates
  • Annual meeting, including the date when the annual budget is passed and evaluation of organizational progress towards the strategic plan takes place
  • Date to file and pay franchise tax
  • Date to file the appropriate IRS form 990
  • Date to report back to a grant maker or a contractor on program/project progress
  • Date to review the Executive Director
  • Special fundraising event dates
  • Date for new board member orientation
  • Date for board self-evaluation
  • Date to review personnel policies to ensure they are compliant with state and federal laws
  • Date for the annual DANA conference, or the gatherings of other professional organizations of which your nonprofit is a member

Once completed, the calendar should be readily available for all board members and staff to review.  Board Chairs can regularly reference the calendar, and request confirmation that the scheduled initiative was indeed followed through on. This one document can help your organization stay on top, helping to support your mission in 2016.

Happy New Year!

Sheila

Tags:  Board Member  Board of Directors  Calendar  Delaware  nonprofits 

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Government and Nonprofits Have Common Thoughts about the Sector

Posted By Sheila Bravo, Wednesday, December 9, 2015

These past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to listen to nonprofit leaders and board chairs talk about how the nonprofit sector can advance its work and the challenges they face. Five forums across the state discussed the sector-level themes that emerged from DANA’s summer Leadership brainstorming session. I also had an opportunity to meet with Delaware state division leaders to listen to their perspective about the challenges of servicing the community. What is interesting is that there were some common themes.

The first is shrinking and shifting resources. Many nonprofits are feeling the impact of funding shifts over the past few years. It is coming from all sides: changes in federal or state funding for specific programs, shifts in focus areas by foundations, and challenges in engaging individuals. What’s more, the funding seems to be more restrictive, thus causing nonprofits to try and identify ways to generate new unrestricted funds. Division leaders are faced also with capped budgets, requiring them to make tough priority calls on where to support the community.

At the same time, both government officials and nonprofit leaders indicate that demand for services is growing, the second most common theme. No wonder: from 2007 to 2013, we saw the state population grow. The 65+ population has increased 10%, and visitors to the state have increased 12%. However, nonprofit revenue to support Delaware citizens and visitors has dropped 13% (Urban Institute, NCCS). Delaware nonprofits provide services that create a quality of life which attracts people to Delaware. Their payroll and spending generates funds for the State government, which helps the economy. The financial scarcity could erode the good work nonprofits do, thus reducing the positive impact they provide.

Listening to the creative solutions individual nonprofits are exploring to find ways to generate money is inspiring. There needs to be more of this. But there also needs to be an infusion of financial resources into the sector. In 2015, 61% of Delaware nonprofits indicate they have less than 4 months of cash (Nonprofit Finance Fund, 2015). This means nonprofit leaders are spending more and more of their time seeking funding, and less time pursuing mission and innovative ways to deliver. Certainly, opportunities to reduce costs exist within the sector. And nonprofits are collaborating on program delivery to improve impact. However, the systemic issue has to be addressed as well.

Both nonprofit leaders and government leaders agree that we need to understand what is needed to serve the citizens of Delaware in the social sector. Only then can we create the case for support to invest, and identify creative ways to generate the nonprofit sector revenues needed to ensure the quality of life we value in Delaware continues.

-Sheila

Tags:  funding  government  nonprofits 

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Making the Economy Grow

Posted By Sheila Bravo, Friday, November 13, 2015

This past week I have had several conversations with Nonprofit and Government leaders about economic impact and sustainability.  Delaware is very fortunate to have many nonprofits that contribute to the economy.  Several nonprofits are starting some impressive initiatives that are designed to generate considerable revenue growth to the State over the next couple of years.

The Wilmington Renaissance Corporation has completed planning, and has begun implementation of a Creative District in Downtown Wilmington.  This initiative focuses on creative production and consumption – in other words, it is a place for artists to work and live, and for their patrons to meet and engage them.  There are plenty of past examples of how arts initiatives have revitalized downtown districts across the country, and this has great promise to do the same.  You can learn more at http://www.bigideaswilmington.com/WRC/Creative-District#contact

Spending time in Kent County, I learned about the Restoring Central Dover collaboration. This initiative came out of the CenDel Foundation’s Safety Task Force and evolved into a collaborative vision among community leaders in the nonprofit, business, and religious communities.   Led by NCall Research, the five-year plan for restoring Dover includes a range of initiatives that overlap with government, business, religious, and nonprofit activities that are aligned towards creating a vital Dover community.  The details can be found at http://www.ncall.org/community-impact/restoring-central-dover/

Did you know: DANA is holding free nonprofit forums to further discuss how to "Make Delaware Great!" We started this discussion at our Annual Conference in June; now it's time to take it further! Bring your ideas; sign up here.

Delaware Botanic Gardens has completed their planning to convert 37 acres into the Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek outside of Dagsboro in Sussex County.   Cultural Tourism has already been marked as an economic driver for the state. Delaware Botanic Gardens adding one in Sussex County is anticipated to generate millions in future years.  With a tourist draw also comes small business opportunities such as restaurants and hotels.  This is a big boon for this part of Delaware! You can see more at http://www.delawaregardens.org/

These are just a few upcoming examples of now nonprofits continue to innovate in ways that create jobs and generate cash for the Delaware economy.  Collectively, nonprofits are a huge employer, draw millions to the state for cultural activities, and make our lives better each day.   As we move into a season of thanksgiving and celebration, and we remind our community of the transformational impact we have on lives, don’t forget to share the good news on how your organization has an impact on our economy, as well.   

Sheila

Tags:  Delaware  economy  nonprofits 

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Investing in Leaders

Posted By Sheila Bravo, Wednesday, November 4, 2015

It’s that time of year! Many nonprofits are going through their budget process right now.  Often, in addition to an income/expense budget and cash flow, nonprofits with fixed assets also develop budgets for facility repair and maintenance.  Too often though, nonprofits forget a very important asset that requires the same type of care and planning for future needs – human resources. 

What percent of your budget is dedicated to professional development?  Do all staff have professional development plans?   How does the Board evaluate compensation and development for the Executive Director, and how often is that reviewed?

Unfortunately, these questions are often not in the budget planning discussions.  I don’t think that it is because Boards and nonprofit leadership don’t care about professional development. Rather, most likely because this is considered discretionary.  At times when funding is tight and choices are made, giving up on training staff seems to make sense.  Perhaps this is true in the short-term, but in the long-term it has significant consequences.   Investing in training for staff is critical to long-term sustainability of a nonprofit organization. Otherwise, where will the next leaders of nonprofits come from?

A recent study completed by Third Sector New England studied nonprofit leadership issues in that region. One of the greatest concerns was leadership development and succession planning.  The study went as far as stating that the nonprofit sector is undercapitalized, with a high percent of long-term talented people and a lower than average pay scale. Retirements will create a deficit in thought-leadership and an increase in operating expense.   

I am hearing the same thing here in Delaware.  Many financially strong nonprofits have benefited from the longevity of their leaders – some of whom have grown their organizations 10-fold over the 20+ years in which they have led the nonprofit.   Who will be taking their place when they retire?  What skills will be necessary for a new leader to take the reigns?  And how are the organizational culture, board practices, and operations tied to the personality of the leader? 

If the board and leadership are not asking these questions now, they should.  The Nonprofit Finance Fund’s 2015 State of the Sector report indicated that less than half (39%) of Delaware nonprofits surveyed provide professional development training for staff.   And even fewer (28%) have tackled leadership succession.  Most nonprofits rely on people, their skills, and their thinking to create sustainable value to the community.  Without investing in those areas, how will nonprofits compete for talent and resources in the future? 

Did you know: DANA has 2 more courses left for the year! Check out our training calendar by clicking here, and join us!

Infrastructure, such as buildings and technologies, over time need care and investment for them to meet the current needs of nonprofit services.   The many talented people who work tirelessly in your organizations need the same.  If you are concerned about funding, then it’s time to speak with your top donors and funders who value your people and the great work they do for the organization. 

There are many sources of training out there.  DANA training begins at $40 for members, and we offer online as well as in-class experiences.   Whatever the professional development need is, don’t delay in investing. Good, talented people who have created the value your organization offers to the community are not easy to replace. Why not build the next generation of leaders within your nonprofit organization so that it can thrive in the long-term.

Sheila

Tags:  budget  Delaware  leaders  nonprofits  succession planning 

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Seasons

Posted By Sheila Bravo, Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Last week I was driving to Newark to visit a nonprofit and I could not help but admire the colorful array of fall foliage as I drove down the highway.  Each tree, each leaf was uniquely colored. Against the bright, sunny sky, the palette was brilliant.  I began to reflect on the seasons, and how the visual environmental changes give clear signs that something different is going to happen.  There are some signals in the nonprofit environment that we are seeing that change is happening for us as well. After surviving a very difficult recession, it seems the funding landscape is changing again with concerns over corporate foundation giving, government funding, and even individual philanthropy.  

The recent forum that the Delaware Revenue Solutions Working Group held (of which DANA is a partner) brought together members of the government who lead the Delaware state budget discussion.  We listened to them talk about their limited resources and all the challenges that come with balancing a budget.   Nonprofit leaders have had that challenge for years!  In fact, it seems that our organizations are being asked to serve more people with less funding annually.  Potential cuts in government funding is concerning.  In a recent survey by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, 67% of Delaware nonprofits reported that they work to deliver services to the community through state grants and contracts.   And over 77% of people who took the survey indicate that demand for services is increasing.  

There is uncertainty in the economic landscape too, which influences the work of nonprofits. This weekend’s News Journal article, featuring DuPont and its leadership change, describes how nonprofits and communities are impacted when cities lose their companies. Yet, today’s announcement of JP Morgan Chase’s investment in Delaware – projecting an additional 1,800 employees in the next several years – shows signs of hope.  A strong workforce and vibrant companies are important elements to nonprofit health.  Nationally, individual giving contributes 72% of all dollars to nonprofits, with corporations & private foundations give less than 10% overall.   Here in Delaware, we have greatly benefitted from the generosity of our corporate philanthropists.  However, in the past decade we have seen a loss of funding as corporations move away, or consolidate their giving to regional offices. The competition for dollars has gone up with a large pool of nonprofits reaching for the same regional pockets. In the meantime, individual philanthropy in Delaware is not at pace with national trends.  Though the average Delaware household income is 12% above the national average, giving per household is 15% below the national average.  

Did you know: DANA's next training is coming up soon! "Breaking the Starvation Cycle" will explain the U.S. Office of Management and Budget Uniform Guidance on Indirect Costs. Whether your nonprofit receives federal money through grants and contracts directly, or even if it is a pass-through in state and local grants, the OMB Uniform Guidance that went into effect on December 26, 2014 applies to you! This is a DON'T MISS opportunity! Join us on Wednesday, November 4 in Wilmington, Thursday, November 5 in Dover, or Friday, November 6 in Georgetown. 

So what is a nonprofit leader to do?  First, recognize that your challenges are not unique.  And neither are Delaware’s.  Many other states and communities have experienced these challenges as corporations leave for international opportunities, or governments restructure their grants & contracts.  We can learn from the work that other state nonprofits and nonprofit councils have done to hold, if not grow, funding opportunities for nonprofits. 

How did they do it? They came together; they became a unified voice.  And that is our opportunity.  The change in the philanthropic landscape should be a chance for us to talk about the benefits of nonprofits to Delawareans, and then ask them to give.  It is a chance to have productive conversations with our government officials on funding solutions instead of expense-cutting tactics.  And, it is an opportunity for nonprofits to look to each other to see how we can work together to serve clients, patrons, and guests better and more efficiently. 

The funding season is changing again.  But one thing I know from the many nonprofit leaders who have weathered prior funding challenges is WE need to be the change.  We need to change the model. And only together can we make that happen.

-Sheila

Tags:  Delaware  DuPont  funding  government  JP Morgan Chase  Nonprofit Finance Fund  nonprofits 

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Too many resources?

Posted By Sheila Bravo, Friday, October 16, 2015

The other day, John Baker and I met with an economic development firm interested in exploring new ways for Delaware to grow. Given that many nonprofits are an engine for economic growth (cultural tourism, work development programs, urban revitalization, etc.) we were invited to offer our thoughts. At the end of the conversation, one of the associates of the firm mentioned how incredible it is that Delaware has so many resources to offer. It took me by surprise, and gave me pause for reflection. In the past few weeks, I have listened to nonprofit and community leaders share their concern that there are not enough resources.

So which is it?

I think it begins with how you define a resource.  In the nonprofit world, there are four resources that I see as critical for nonprofit sustainability – strategy, people, infrastructure, and cash. 

Strategy – a nonprofit organization must have a mission, but it also it needs to be clear on how it will deliver its mission efficiently and effectively. Efficiency is important because the public wants nonprofits to apply resources towards service delivery and minimize unproductive energy and time. Effectiveness is important because the community wishes to understand the result of the nonprofit’s work towards the outcomes it seeks. Good strategy will make sure a nonprofit remains focused on the elements that provide efficient and effective mission delivery toward desired outcomes.

People – DANA’s focus on board excellence and leadership development is a testimony as to how important we believe people are to a strong and healthy nonprofit sector. People deliver the services. But they also are the thought-leaders behind developing strategies that guide an organization to determine how many people are needed, what skills are required, and in what way they need to do their work to be efficient and effective. The people on the Board are very important – they ensure the nonprofit is following its mission in a legal and sustainable manner. They hire the CEO/Executive Director and together provide the critical thought-leadership to create the strategy. Volunteers and staff then become an important resource to help implement the activities needed to engage and impact the lives of the people (or animals, or the environment) they touch. The people in the community are important, too. They help to support the nonprofit through donations, connect nonprofit leaders to others, and advocate for the nonprofit’s value. 

Infrastructure – this is not only the technology, office space, or program venue, it is also the systems and processes that a nonprofit uses to efficiently and effectively deliver its mission. The systems and processes help connect nonprofits to prospective clients and customers, as well as promote its value to the community. Infrastructure is needed to deliver quality products, and enables a nonprofit’s leader to monitor and evaluate its financial and mission results. 

Cash – obvious of course, but it is actually not one type. It is a diversified set of cash comprised of long-term funds that can help a nonprofit deliver its services in good times and bad (aka: an endowment), as well as unrestricted funds so that nonprofit leaders can apply cash resources to what they believe will result in efficient and effective mission delivery. Some cash comes in as it goes out, while other cash is brought in and held until the project or program for which it was designated is implemented. The amount of cash received depends on the previous three resource elements. For example, if an organization is blessed with many volunteers, they will need much less cash for payroll than a nonprofit that requires skilled professionals for service delivery (such as psychologists or surgeons).

Did you know: DANA provides strategic planning consulting to interested organizations and their Board of Directors.

Reach out to Paul Stock (pstock@delawarenonprofit.org) to learn more.

In Delaware, the opportunities for strategy development, the number of people interested in being involved with nonprofits, the amount of infrastructure, and funding resources available collectively point to a lot of resources.  However, it all comes down to how the collective resources are applied together that make the difference. Nonprofit leaders should assess the right balance of that mix in light of what they wish to achieve in desired mission outcomes. 

Before assuming there is not enough cash, has your organization looked to see if it is focused only on those activities that deliver on the mission, or are there initiatives that are interesting, yet not mission focused? Can volunteers help take some of the workload off of staff to help them direct their work hours on program delivery vs. administration or facility repairs? Are there partnership opportunities a nonprofit can seek that will permit mission delivery to go farther? In what ways can the infrastructure be improved to promote efficiency and measure effectiveness?

Answering these questions will inform the cash resources needed, both in the short and long term. Yes, there are limited cash resources for all the activities that nonprofits in Delaware want to do. However, I wonder with all that we have to access – strategy, people, and infrastructure – would we be able to do more if we focused on these resources too?

Tags:  Board of Directors  mission  nonprofits  outcomes  Resources  strategy 

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Collective Impact

Posted By Sheila Bravo, Friday, October 2, 2015

It is widely recognized that nonprofits are serving a greater number of people, but have access to fewer resources. Partnering with another organization can be one strategy in doing more with less. The number of nonprofits has increased to service a growing population that relies on them. However, contributed dollars are not growing at the same pace. More nonprofits are requesting grants from the same pool of funds as the majority of other organizations. So what can nonprofits do?

The first thing is to take a step back and evaluate your nonprofit’s mission and vision, as well as your organization’s plan for the future. Has your organization confirmed the mission that it set years ago is still a differentiating purpose? In other words, if your organization didn’t exist, would the population you serve receive services by someone else? If the answer is yes, then perhaps an opportunity exists to partner to reduce overlap of services. If the answer is no, then it’s time to start thinking about how your organization can deliver those services in ways that are more efficient and effective to stretch dollars further. As I learn more about the nonprofit sector, I’ve been hearing about many organizations who are working together to have a collective impact, or share resources in order to avoid hiring additional staff, in turn avoiding additional cost. 

Here are some examples:

  • Habitat for Humanity and several other nonprofits that support housing related needs are part of the Delaware Housing Coalition. They discuss what they each do and outline collective strategies. 
  • Modern Maturity Center is part of the Delaware Aging Network. Rather than each organization hiring their own advocacy manager, they all put their collective resources together and were able to pass legislation to help seniors in the state. 
  • The Delaware Nature Center works across all three counties with other environmental agencies to support legislation that improves Delaware’s environment, and in turn, each of their missions.

In my interviews with Delaware foundations, I am hearing that they are beginning to ask if nonprofits are reaching out to partner with other agencies to reduce costs and/or to improve service and mission outcomes. It’s a trend that is growing.

As I referenced in my previous blog, if your nonprofit is interested in partnerships and collaboration, but don’t know where to start, give DANA a call. We can refer you to other organizations and make introductions to get the conversations started!

Did you know: Along the vein of “collective impact” the Delaware Revenue Solutions Working Group has announced a public forum taking place on October 20th. They’re seeking input from the Delaware nonprofit sector ahead of the upcoming 2016 budget challenge. If you’re interested in attending, click here for more details and registration information.

 

Tags:  budget  collaboration  Delaware  grants  nonprofits  partnerships  Revenue 

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Connections

Posted By Sheila Bravo, Thursday, September 24, 2015

One of the wonderful things about Delaware is how everyone seems to know someone that you know. Delawareans, from my experience, are welcoming and very helpful. I have received many welcome notes from fellow nonprofit leaders, and have been invited to networking breakfast and lunch meetings. These get-togethers provide a nonprofit leader with sage advice from more seasoned Executives. This can lead to other phone calls for counsel, and in turn, even build friendships. I experienced this in my last role at the Rehoboth Art League, and am glad to find it here at DANA, as well. 

In my visits with nonprofit leaders up and down the state, I have met some who are relatively new to the sector, and even to Delaware. They do not yet have that network to rely upon. They may not know who to call or where to go. Our strong informal network is not open to them yet. One fairly new ED mentioned to me that he is being asked to collaborate, but he doesn't know who to collaborate with.  It all goes back to these connections. Collaboration doesn't just happen. It is a process in which conversations take place and trust is built. Only then can a successful collaborative initiative take place.

Did you know: One of the perks of DANA membership is an invitation to our free, exclusive Member-Only Winter Reception. Every year, we draw in about 100 passionate nonprofit people to connect with each other and celebrate all that the nonprofit sector accomplished throughout the year. If you’re not a DANA member yet, click here to learn more, or call us at 302-777-5500. We’d love to meet you!

DANA can help nonprofits make connections. We receive calls nearly every day with questions on 'who does what.' For folks who wish to start up a new nonprofit - or already have - we offer suggestions on who they can reach out to in their respective mission area. Our member reception, which is held annually in December, is a fun way to connect with fellow nonprofit leaders. DANA’s annual conference and training sessions can also be an additional means to make new connections.

Working together first starts with getting to know each other. I encourage established nonprofit leaders to reach out and say hello to a new leader, and for new leaders to reach out and say hello to their fellow nonprofits down the street, whether you have like-missions or not. Who knows what exciting things may happen!

 

Tags:  CEO  collaboration  Delaware  leaders  nonprofits 

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Collaboration is Key

Posted By Sheila Bravo, Wednesday, September 16, 2015

This past week I have had the opportunity to meet with a variety of nonprofit, philanthropic, and community leaders. The passion of these leaders in finding solutions to eliminate poverty, find affordable housing, and address issues of disparity and discrimination is inspiring. Many of them are working with other nonprofits and foundations to address these issues in a bigger way.

For example, the CenDel Foundation has partnered with the Delaware Community Foundation, business leaders, and nonprofit leaders to identify opportunities to improve the quality of life in Central Dover. Out of that collaboration emerged a Central Dover Revitalization plan to improve safety, engage the city’s youth, expand family services, boost home ownership, and support new development downtown.  A national grant has been secured to kick off the funding needed for project implementation over the next five years. But these organizations haven’t stopped there. They are continuing to meet and find new ways to collaborate to improve their operational efficiencies and expand mission impact.

At this summer’s annual DANA Conference, another collaborative initiative took place. DANA, the Delaware Community Foundation (DCF), the Delaware Grantmakers Association (DGA), United Way of Delaware (UW), and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) sampled  over 100 key community leaders in the nonprofit, government, education, philanthropic, and business arenas in order to listen to their ideas on how to make Delaware, and in particular, how to make the nonprofit sector great. We were thrilled to have gotten a full list of ideas, which were then synthesized into several themes. Our collaborative organizations then sent out the themes to conference attendees to be ranked. Their feedback told us there is:

  • A desire for more collaboration to improve efficiencies as well as enhance collective impact;
  • A push to evaluate community needs and understand which organizations are serving those needs throughout the State and how they are doing it;
  • A curiosity to explore whether organization consolidation or expansion should take place and how; and
  • A need to identify common outcome measurements that permit the community, nonprofits, and funders to make better decisions on resource allocation and decision making.
Did you know: DANA has a collaboration training coming up! “Building a Sustainable Organization with Collaboration” will be held October 14, 15, and 16 in all 3 counties. Click here to learn more and register.

As I continue to meet the leaders of DANA’s partner organizations, members, elected officials, and community and philanthropic leaders, I will explore these themes to learn more about how DANA can help facilitate their achievement. Some work on this has already begun through conversations this summer among representatives from DANA, DGA, DCF, UW, and AFP. If you have ideas or wish to talk about this further, please let me know. Your voice matters.

-Sheila

Tags:  collaboration  DANA  Delaware  nonprofits 

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