Just read an interesting piece in a small newspaper in North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Times explored the impact of federal stimulus on local npos - and the hangover that is likely to result.
The Western Carolina Community Action, in just oen example, received about $3 million, for Head Start, health care, building greener communities through updating low income people's homes and updating their medical data software and - perhaps most important;y - not laying off the teachers that work directly with the community's low income children
But now what?
North Carolina - just like Utah - has seen a serious downturn in its economy and reduced state revenues. Their legislature, just like ours, is slashing the very programs that the stimulus funds were meant to save. There are no real plans to replace these sources of revenue in the future... Will we see three year olds pulled from classrooms? Will individuals step up? Will the investments made in communities be withdrawn? Stay tuned here -- or just read the Tribune.
Here is a nice convergence of a certain executive director's interests- our partner Skullcandy featured in Vogue, with help from our pal Henry Eshelman at Platform Media Group. !
Todd Manwaring from BYU, Steve Grizzel of Innoventures and Alex Lawrence at Funding Universe are planning a foru on the state of social entrepreneurship in Utah. Here is an example of the type of program the Community Foundation would love to see grow in Utah - The Bread Project, which trains low-income students, many struggling with the impacts of homelessness, criminal backgrounds, addiction and poverty to be successful bakers.
Read the story here.
The Utah Nonprofits Day on the Hill was last week, and 30 or so nonprofits hit the marble, needs and solutions in hand. This new study from LA proves once again that advocacy is where it is at. The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found that between 2004 and 2008 the community benefits provided by LA County nonprofits engaged in advocacy and organizing included $2.6 billion in higher wages.... and that is just a start. Read the full results here - preferably while you are on a bus up to the capital!
And a special shout out to the intrepid new lobbyists from the environmental sector I watched steer Representative Noel away from global warming and on to huntin' and fishin'. Now that is advocacy!
A group at BYU and Harvard just completed a study trying to get at the root of what makes people innovative. Reading the list of traits I kept thinking - this describes nonprofit leaders to a T!. And then I wondered - why do some think our sector is so staid and risk adverse?
Here is one quote "the most effective leaders "are much more likely to ask 'What if' questions, such as, 'What would happen if we do this?' They ask things like, 'What if we try doing things a new way, how will it change the world?'
The study appears in the Harvard Review of Business this week.
Hard to believe that Farm Aid is turning 25 this year. The Star Tribune looked at the impact the Willi Nelson and John Mellencamp led effort has had - and the news is good. While concerts are not the easiest way to raise money, Farm Aid has brought more than 36 million to the cause, and most importantly, kept the plight of family farmers in the spotlight for a quarter of a century. There’s a lot of celebrity charity that is basically hype and little more. That isn’t the case with Farm Aid. But as John Mellencamp told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and St. Paul about Willie Nelson’s “tao,” “Where is Live Aid [now]?...There are still kids starving in Africa, just as there are still American farmers who need help. God bless Willie. When he made a commitment, he stuck to it.”
Maryland has become the first state to create a new kind of company somehat similar to Utah's L3c - a "Benefit Corporation"
This new class of corporations are required by state law to create benefit for society as well as shareholders. This includes "material positive impact on society; consider how decisions affect employees, community and the environment; and publicly report their social and environmental performance using established third-party standards."
According to an article on the legislation, the new law "addresses a long time concern among entrepreneurs who need to raise growth capital but fear losing control of the social or environmental mission of their business. The law gives these business developers the right to hold directors accountable for failure to create a material positive impact on society or to consider the impact of decisions on employees, community, and the environment."
Any takers on running the legislation here?
I love this article in the Modesto Bee. Seems that event though our friends in California have it even worse than we Utahns, they too are optimistic about the future.
The Modesto, Calif., Bee writes how nonprofits that "feed, clothe and shelter people and counsel them when they are in crisis have laid off staff, not filled vacant positions, relied more on volunteers, and reduced hours and services to make ends meet." Yet the people in these jobs are happy and optimistic. "But as much pain as the recession has inflicted across the region, nonprofit leaders say there are some bright spots. Many say they have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people who give what they can despite their own hardships."
I found this particualrly striking: The Salvation Army reports that "former donors make up 5 percent to 10 percent of the people seeking help."
Johann Jacobs from Ballet West sent along this thought provoking piece by Michael Kaiser, President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Though I think that endowments are sorely needed in our non profit community he has terrific points about marketing to a new generation and the fundamental importance - central, really, of just doing good work. Enjoy - and thanks, Johann.
Is there conventional wisdom amongst arts organizations that I disagree with and try to fight against? I didn't give a full response during the live interview. Here is a more thoughtful list:
1. All we need is an endowment. Of course, if someone drops an endowment in my lap, I will be thrilled to accept it. But the cost of creating an endowment is high since it takes focus away from the key strategic areas for all arts organizations: making great art, marketing aggressively and building the size of the organization's constituency. When revenue is diverted to endowment rather than to making more great art (and marketing it aggressively) the organization can begin to lose its constituents and, therefore, its revenue. And, since every arts organization grows to the point of discomfort anyway - new expenses naturally follow new income - building a larger endowment rarely means financial security. Instead, it almost always translates into a larger budget with the same old tensions.
2. In our next executive director, we need to hire a strong finance person (often from the for-profit sector) to keep control on expenses. The problem here is that finance people are experts at measuring problems, not fixing them. Arts organizations need entrepreneurial managers who know how to create income, not intelligent analysts who can tell you how bad things are.
3. We need to control expenses in order to be healthy. While some arts organizations do have inflated budgets, far more have inadequate revenue streams. It is far more effective to focus on building new sources of revenue than on saving our way to health.
4. All artists and arts organizations are spendthrifts. Wrong. It is amazing how much arts organizations produce with so little. We are not spendthrifts. But we do suffer from a difficulty improving productivity so our costs rise quickly and we need to experiment to make great art so there is often the appearance of waste.
5. Now is the time to play it safe with programming. Wrong again. If we all do safe, boring work, we will lose our audiences and our donors. It is the big surprising projects that build visibility and, therefore, income.
6. We can attract young audiences by doing more exciting, or higher tech, marketing. It is not the nature of marketing that attracts any segment of an audience but the work itself. Of course we must use marketing techniques that reach the audience we hope to attract, but simply putting something on Facebook does not guarantee that younger people will come.
7. Institutional marketing can only be pursued by large, famous organizations. I have yet to find an arts organization that cannot influence its community by pursuing a campaign that highlights important programming, special events, and important announcements. While larger organizations may have a broader range of opportunities to promote themselves, smaller organizations can use their assets to build visibility as well.
Wisdom from Pamela Hartigan director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University's Said Business School. Her closing words at the Skoll forum are shared with her permission from Katherine Fulton's blog.
I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on an oft-repeated comment that has followed me over the last decade or more – and it questions the focus on the heroic entrepreneur. Is that not misguided – I am frequently asked? Certainly it takes more than the visionary individual for his or her initiative to be successful – what about the people in the organizations they set up who are often instrumental to its success? And as we have emphasized throughout this Forum, a fact underscored by our Catalysing Collaboration theme, social entrepreneurs cannot hope to scale their solutions without the essential support of other public and private sector stakeholders – and most importantly, of the communities in which they work.
So why continue this hero worship, I am asked? I would like to look at this question differently. We are all human, and we know that people and their institutions – whether government, business or nonprofit – strongly resist new ideas, however great or lousy they might be. It takes extraordinary persistence and creativity to sell the idea to others. The entrepreneur is incredibly inventive in that regard, working day and night to find a way to motivate, persuade, to engage others in believing in that change. In fact, that ability to overcome these barriers turns out more important than the original idea. An idea in itself is often so simple – giving credit to the poor, involving communities in the protection of their ecosystems, revolutionizing access to quality health care and education and the like – such simple ideas... but making them happen takes years of persistent seduction.
So while these individuals will always be heroes – and slightly mad, much to humanity's great good fortune – celebrating these social entrepreneurs should not lead us into the trap of assuming that they single-handedly achieve their results. Nothing could be further from the truth. And much of what they achieve despite severe resource constraints is due to the type of leadership they exercise. Kouzes and Posner, gurus on the subject, define leadership as "... the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations. All leadership involves inspiration, vision, competence and interpersonal skills." And that is exactly what social entrepreneurs possess. It takes courage, imagination and persistence to drive through the kinds of fundamental changes needed to respond to new challenges and opportunities. And that can only be done through a more open style of leadership that combines intellectual humility and personal confidence which doesn't confuse ambition with omniscience.
Finally, one of the messages I continuously reiterate to MBA students at Oxford and at Columbia Business School is the following: It is okay NOT to be a maverick. It's okay NOT to be a social entrepreneur and have a system-changing idea that you doggedly pursue at all costs and every waking minute. Most of us are NOT change-makers or entrepreneurs. And thank heavens for that, having done nothing but live and breathe with entrepreneurs for over a decade and found them wholly wonderful and exciting but completely unreasonable. But, for the majority of us who are not entrepreneurs, wherever our careers take us, we can and should be instrumental in facilitating, supporting and strengthening the work of these pragmatic visionaries because they are coming up with many of the solutions we so desperately need.