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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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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.


Tags:  funding  government  nonprofits 

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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.


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

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