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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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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 


Posted By Sheila Bravo, Thursday, October 6, 2016
Updated: Saturday, November 26, 2016

It is hard to believe that a year ago I started this journey as CEO of DANA.   During this first year, I have had the immense pleasure of meeting so many dedicated people working to better our state through philanthropy, governing, and nonprofit service.  In the course of those conversations several themes emerged:  1) all agree that the agencies who serve Delaware make a difference in the community.  2) all agree that the funding landscape to support those services is shifting and shrinking, while it seems service demand increases, 3) that it is hard to know who is doing what in the State and how well, thus making it challenging to leverage and allocate resources and 4) all agree that this environment is not going to change unless we make it happen.


There are several initiatives in play that are helping us move forward towards solutions.  The first is a project that DANA and the Delaware Grantmaker’s Association (DGA) are working on to create a database that showcases nonprofits in the state, where they serve, and what they do.  This will help nonprofit leaders better understand who they can partner with to leverage resources, and will better inform grantmakers on who does what as they allocate resources.  The second is the Delaware Revenue Solutions Coalition’s work to unify the philanthropy and nonprofit communities around State revenue growth to resource the services that make Delaware a great place to live. Third, DANA, the Delaware Community Foundation and the United Way of DE have partnered with the DE Business Times to promote philanthropy and have invited nonprofits to participate in the upcoming Giving Guide,   scheduled to be released before “Giving Tuesday”. 


And finally, with the common interest by government, grantmakers and nonprofit leaders to agree on what outcomes matter, DANA and DGA are partnering together to host an event on November 29th  to bring grantmaking and nonprofit leaders together to hear from David Grant, author of The Social Profit Handbook,  on methods to qualitatively assess program effectiveness.


At the end of the day, though – communicating success is just as important as making it happen.  I know there are many organizations making incredible headway on their mission every day.  But not everyone knows that.   So, I’m inviting DANA member nonprofits to share their impact stories through this blog.   I’m closing the chapter on my “Endless Journey” blog – and opening a new one:  Celebrating our Impact.   Please send me your story to, with a picture and brief paragraph on what you do and how it transforms lives or the community.  This will be the basis for my blogs going forward.  Collectively, our stories can help to inform the community on the great and impactful work nonprofits do across Delaware.

Tags:  David Grant  Delaware  giving Tuesday  grantmakers  nonprofit  philanthropy 

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What An Excellent Board Makes Possible

Posted By Sheila Bravo, Thursday, July 21, 2016

This past week I had the opportunity to facilitate discussions on board excellence across the state.  25 Board leaders participated in learning more about the six areas on which boards of directors can focus for improved board performance.  As the session got underway, I posed this question:  What does an excellent board make possible?

At first the answers were focused on the organizational level:  growth for the organization, donor and volunteer confidence, sustainability, staff support and reassurance, and more partnerships.

Then we took it to a higher level and looked at what an excellent board makes possible for the community: greater community involvement, more people receiving benefits, a healthier community, a greater economic development, improved community pride, and a greater quality of life.

When a nonprofit is formed, the board is typically focused on the community improvement aspects of their work - that is why they came together in the first place.  Enthusiasm builds based on the possibilities of all that they can accomplish for their community.   But over time, the need to raise funds, hire staff, meet legal and financial oversight requirements, etc., can make the work of the board seem administrative and less exciting.

Yet, it is in the excellence of leadership, planning, great governance, financial leadership, and resource provision that the board makes it possible for the organization and its staff to thrive.  Through their work, the community is transformed; and it is all because they are operating based on a sound plan, have a strong balance sheet, and possess the confidence that they will be able to follow through with the promise of their mission.

So at times when board work may not seem very interesting, stop and ask yourself and your board - what does (insert non-interesting work activity here) make possible for our mission?  How will it help board members have a greater understanding and confidence in our nonprofit's financial position?   How will it instill confidence in donors?  And with donors feeling confident in our good stewardship - how will the gifts they give make a difference to the community we desire to be better? Reminding board members how their planning, oversight, governance and policy work will make many things possible can be the catalyst to stimulate the decision leadership needed to move the organization forward.

The possibilities for better communities begin when nonprofit boards operate with excellence. DANA's Board Excellence workshops and retreats can help nonprofit Directors better realize their board and organization's potential.  To learn more visit our website at 

Tags:  Board Member  Community  Delaware  Leadership  Nonprofit  Organization 

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