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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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It is Time

Posted By Sheila Bravo, Monday, February 6, 2017

Delaware Nonprofit Board Members and Leaders: It is Time

These past few weeks have left many social impact leaders feeling anxious and uncertain about what is ahead for the people and causes they serve.  Swift changes enacted by the new Trump Administration, and promises of even greater change in the future, are raising many questions.  The challenges our State leaders face with an escalating annual budget gap adds to the tumultuous feeling.  In times like these, some may think it is best to stay focused on the present, get the work done, and wait this out.  

You can’t.  It is time to act.

Now is the time to check the resiliency of your organization to weather possible shifts in regulation and funding.  Is your funding diversified well enough to absorb shifts in grants and contracts?  Will your clients be able to access your services if the changes you anticipate occur? 

Now is the time to sharpen the case for support as government and donors set priorities for allocating their dollars.  Remind them how your organization creates jobs, impacts tourism, creates a community that attracts businesses, saves lives, educates children, reduces recidivism, saves tax payer dollars, creates a better future for our kids, (add in your impact here!).

Now is the time to reach out to your local, state and federal representatives and senators to educate them on the important cause you support, and the impact regulatory or funding changes could have on your organization’s ability to serve, or your client’s ability to access your services.

Now is the time to encourage other volunteers in the organization to do the same.  To share the meaningful work they do, and the lives they positively impact.

Now is the time to ask your partners to join you in highlighting how your alliance has a multiplying effect in achieving outcomes.  Together you and your partner’s staff, volunteers and clients represent a sizeable portion of your community, and can raise attention to your representatives the importance of sustaining your work.

Now is the time to speak up about possible changes to the charitable gift deduction – a stimulus to encourage giving for individuals which is at risk with the pending tax code re-write; to speak up about possible federal spending reductions that impact your mission and the people you support; to raise awareness on the need to increase revenue sources at the State level to finance the investments required to achieve the desired quality of life here in Delaware.

Once the regulations are passed, once the tax code is rewritten, the funding allocations are set.  It will be too late.


Tags:  Board Member  Budget  Calendar  DEFAC  Government 

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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.


Tags:  budget  Delaware  leaders  nonprofits  succession planning 

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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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