The Social/Nonprofit Sector - what will it look like decades from now?
February 15th, 2012
Provocateur: a person who provokes trouble, causes dissension, or the like; agitator. OR, according to the Sieger definition, is it a person who causes one to step out of their zone and look at the world in another way!?
I am constantly thinking about the future and the role that Grand Rapids Community Foundation is playing and can be playing in that future. For me, it is no longer just a question of our relevancy but something much more than that. Are we really ready for what is just over the horizon?
At the annual Council on Foundations’ Conference for Community Foundations last September, a leader in our field challenged the audience to really look at ourselves and question whether the community foundation “model” was sustainable. I am used to this fine gentleman’s attempt to try to create a stir. And while I was listening to some degree, I thought he was asking the wrong question.
The question is whether the social sector – the nonprofit field if you will - actually be the same in 10 – 20 – even 50 years from now. And community foundations aren’t the only nonprofit corporations that need to really think about this.
More specifically, will fund raising really sustain the sector in terms of revenue generation to build capacity and continue to make an impact? It could be argued that partnerships with governmental sources, creating subsidiary businesses to provide income, and other ideas will help bolster the sector. But what I’m looking into - - - - what will the sector look like and how will the sector grow in terms of resources beyond asking for money? Hmmmm. Ponder that one. More to follow.
Have I got a question for you!
April 7th, 2011At a recent board meeting a trustee asked me a question that has had me intrigued since then. We were presenting key aspects of our impact measurement system called Novah to demonstrate its ability to understand the difference our grants may or may not be making. I enticed the board with this in the meeting invitation: "If you are interested in understanding how we do measure our grants, then this is the session for you!" It was a GREAT meeting!
So back to the question which was: "Do our colleagues working in the area of economic development and more specifically those organizations formed to address the macro area of economic development understand the value of community foundations in our region?" My immediate answer was: "they don't care." What thankfully ensued was an inspiring discussion.
The trustee was focusing on our work in improving the general health and well-being of our community that plays a key role in retaining businesses and to enhance the community culture to attract businesses! He basically was making the point that community foundations do and can make a significant difference in shaping the competitive advantage of our region.
I do know that our economic development colleagues do care and I trust that the community foundation leaders in West Michigan will demonstrate our value to our respective communities in many areas that include work force development, improving high school graduation rates, environmental concerns, creating affordable housing, encouraging the growth of arts and culture, and so much more.
Strengthening Michigan . . . it is a collective effort!
January 20th, 2011Last week I was invited along with several foundation leaders from around the state to meet with Gov. Rick Snyder who was recently elected to lead Michigan. It was a good meeting and a positive step helping the governor became more familiar with the priorities and ideas from the philanthropic leaders in our state and to provide an opportunity for him to outline some of his goals.
I am a member of the Advisory Committee of the Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL), which is an important entity established to coordinate and connect philanthropy with the Governor's Office and other state departments. It was created by Dave Egner and Dave Campbell, Detroit area foundation leaders, when former Gov. Granholm came into office. I am pleased to see that the OFL will continue its work in this new administration. Rob Collier, president of the Council of Michigan Foundations along with the OFL, arranged this meeting.
The Governor and all the people of the state of Michigan will continue to have a rough ride as we climb out of a recession that has lasted a little more than a decade in our great state. It definitely is going to take all of us to address the economic obstacles and difficult conditions in this state. As noted often by the Center for Michigan and Lou Glazer's Michigan Futures organization, there are many factors that need to be addressed to turn our state around. Using the information from these two organizations may help guide the discussion leading to a vibrant and strong future for all in Michigan.
But statistics, hard facts and compelling arguments aside, one thing that I can only describe as the "je ne sais quoi" of it all is the need for all of us in this state to come together and to avoid funneling a majority of our precious resources in one area or region as the only answer to all the woes facing us. Innovation and entrepreneurial behavior are not exclusive to one area of Michigan and certainly do exist in West Michigan. Gov. Snyder recognized the role of The Right Place, Inc. in his State of the State Address last night (January 19, 2011) thus linking their strengths to other areas of the state. Congratulations to Birgit Klohs by the way on this recognition of the strength of this area's economic development organization. Recognizing and growing robust business clusters throughout the state is going to be critical as well.
The Grand Rapids Community Foundation has a solid history in supporting community development at the neighborhood and city levels as well as helping support efforts to strengthen small businesses, financing micro-loan programs, funding programs to help people avoid foreclosures and add more affordable housing to many areas of our region. We are also investing in more macro level economic development efforts such as the Innovation West Michigan which is an initiative of The Right Place, Inc.
We are playing and will continue to play a key role in strengthening the state of Michigan. It is about job creation, creating a welcoming environment for all and overcoming obstacles making this state great once again!
Celebrating Community Philanthropy!
November 15th, 2010This is National Community Foundations Week and instead of writing a piece on this, I thought it best to post a blog entry from my colleague Judy Sjostedt who is the executive director of the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation and Regional Affiliates in West Virginia.
The Council on Foundations posted this on November 12th and I think it says it all! Her community is miles from Grand Rapids but regardless, philanthropy at the community level is quite powerful as noted in her first paragraph:
"Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffett. I asked local West Virginia leaders recently what these three had in common other than great wealth. Those present quickly responded that all three are wonderful philanthropists doing phenomenal things. That's true, I said, but not the most significant answer for us. They looked at me, questioning. The most important thing in common in relationship to us, I replied, is that none of them live here. Their giving does not hold the strongest potential to transform our hometowns; our local citizens' philanthropy is far more essential."
So be it West Michigan or West Virginia, Judy has focused on the key reason why community foundations are at the heart of philanthropy in their respective communities! Well said Judy!
Trading Power with the Next Generations!
September 15th, 2010OR the Subtitle could read: I can feel your hot breath on the back of my neck!
This is another post from the Council on Foundations Fall Conference for Community Foundations:
On Tuesday, September 14th, I participated in a session entitled "Trading Power" dealing with the "importance of multigenerational involvement in philanthropy." In other words, how to involve all ages in the decision-making and learning at foundations while we gain insight on the generations coming up!
Two Council on Foundations staff leaders, Dori Kreiger, Managing Director, Family Philanthropy Services and Andrew Ho, Manager, Global Philanthropy designed and organized this session . It was purposely designed to encourage audience participation and the participants were arranged in a fishbowl fashion surrounded by a circle of attendees. A key feature of the session involved role playing situations. It worked well! Jillian Vukusich, Director of Community Investment at the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Audrey Jacobs, Director of the Center for Family Philanthropy at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and I acted out the scenarios.
In the first scenario, Jillian played the "seasoned" Executive Director who was meeting with next gen "program officer" played by Andy Ho. They acted out a negative and then a much more positive version of the scenario as Andy was looking for more leadership opportunities. In the second scenario, I played the seasoned Executive Director speaking with Audrey who was the seasoned Board Chair as I was trying to set the stage for bringing some younger leaders on the community foundation board. The Good and the Bad were played out here as well. Oh my! What an experience! The session attendees did talk . . . a lot! Great conversation!
* This is multigenerational not just about the "next gen"
* Leadership needs to be shared and opportunities need to be broadened
* Communication is changing (has changed!) rapidly - including social media
* Work habits different and the next gen may see their careers as a "train making several stops"
* Philanthropy needs to offer ways to show what great leadership can look like
I strongly urge everyone to go to http://www.cof.org/tradingpower to find a rich resource of articles, books as well as the report Trading Power. The report includes interviews with 18 philanthropic leaders and their thoughts on the next generation and the exchange that can ensue between the generations and indeed, sharing power.
As a boomer who has been the CEO of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation for 23 years, I know that the key thing is to create real situations to spread the power, authority and responsibility to staff as well as new opportunities to relate to upcoming generations of donors and all levels of community leaders. We have involved youth grantmakers on our board for the past 8 years - one a year with the next one in the wings. They have all the rights and responsibilities of any of our trustees PLUS they do participate in my performance review! We are actively looking for the best people who can help us reach our lofty goals and address our future strategies. It takes people of all ages, backgrounds and experience. The key thing is that we are looking for people who have great passion for our communities!
To my fellow boomers, embrace the new leadership and don't be fearful to share power and leadership. And yes, to our next gen leaders, I DO feel your hot breath on the back of my neck. I'll turn around to guide and involve you don't worry. I am not retiring for quite a few years though so learn all you can from me and I'll learn from you as well.