These are critical times for nonprofits. There are more social needs, yet fewer resources capable of addressing them. Government cutbacks and overwhelmed businesses simply can’t keep up with the growing demand for help. Funders are tapped out, leaving too many nonprofits without the financial capability to fulfill their mission.
Joining host, Dennis McCuistion, are key experts in the nonprofit community:
- Brent Christopher: President & CEO, Communities Foundation of North Texas
- Charlotte Keany: Former Director of Consulting, Center for Nonprofit Management; now retired, and
- Robert Wright: Co-founder of Dallas Social Venture Partners
In order for today’s nonprofits to succeed they may need to evolve to a more sustainable culture and adapt at least a few best business best practices. This proposed evolution incorporates different models including: venture philanthropy, social enterprise and proactive hands-on involvement from business leaders who bring business management and leadership advice to nonprofits.
What’s changing in the nonprofit world? What still needs to change? Each of our panelists bring a fresh perspective to the world of philanthropy. Bob Wright says, “we’re seeing a blurring, a combination of best practices of some of these sectors; business moving into nonprofit sectors with social enterprise, nonprofits emulating business practices as they try to become more accountable.”
Brent Christopher talks about how the 700+ Communities Foundations around the country serve the charities in their community by “helping donors who are ambitiously compassionate make tomorrow better”. Community Foundations make grants on their clients behalf that give back to the community they live and work in, or a donor can choose to be more involved through donor advised funds.
Charlotte Keany, former chair of the Social Enterprise Alliance – North Texas chapter, describes the social enterprise model. According to SEA, a social enterprise is a business whose primary purpose is the common good. Social enterprises use the method and discipline of business and the power of the marketplace to advance their social, environmental and human justice agendas. Commercial activity is a strong revenue driver- leading – hopefully to sustainability.By doing so they create an unrestricted earned income stream, which can be used for much needed research, product development and revenue to run the nonprofit and grow the organization.
There is no question that many charities, the great majority of which have budgets under $500,000, need to look at different ways of doing business to fulfill their mission. This program led to my being elected the new Chair of the Social Enterprise Alliance of North Texas, and inspired collaboration with Jean Block- of Social Enterprise Ventures. Our collaboration resulted in a newly released book: The Nonprofit Guide to Social Enterprise: Show Me the Unrestricted Money. It’s a hands-on, practical, how-to on how to build sustainability through social enterprise (available on Amazon – use code Niki 114 ).
Dan Pallotta, author of Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential, joins in via a previously taped interview. He says, “There’s been a popular admonition in the last 15 years; we want charities to act more like a business. What we mean by that is we want to draw more blood from the stone. We want them do even more with less. That’s the opposite of how businesses succeed. Apple didn’t succeed by spending less researching the multi-touch screen for the iPhone and iPad. I take tremendous issue with this advice to charities; you should start acting more like business. We’re not for a moment ready to allow charities to act more like business. We get upset when they pay their people the kind of money we pay in business… we get upset when they want to spend money on advertising… or take risks… Please stop telling charities to act more like a business when we won’t give them permission to do that. It’s abusive.”
To continue the work that charities do, new ways must be explored, current practices examined and decidedly more conversations like this one must take place.
We challenge you to get involved in your community by volunteering and writing that check. Investigate the nonprofits that resonate with your personal and corporate mission, jump in and change the world.
Niki N. McCuistion
Organizational Culture, Governance and Strategic Planning,
Consultant and Problem Solver