There’s a truly dizzying amount to read, learn, and do every day, so how do we stay in the know? We decided to share some of the Nonprofit Center's favorite newsletters jam-packed with information for nonprofits. Keeping informed is as simple as subscribing!
1. Wegner CPAs Non-Profit Network News - Your "one-stop-shop" for upcoming seminars, conferences and helpful resources related to the nonprofit industry. BONUS: If you have an upcoming event you'd like them to include, simply send them an email with the details! Subscribe here. Do it now.
2. Nonprofit Tech for Good - A general collection of links from Nonprofit Tech for Good’s excellent blog, including blog posts, webinars, and even conferences.
3. National Council for Nonprofits - NCN Keeps you up to speed on any national policy issue that affect your work and also throws in some seriously useful tools and best practices guidelines.
4. SM4NP - This stands for Social Media for Nonprofits. Navigating the world of social media is a whole lot easier with this newsletter. If your job involves tweeting, liking, sharing, subscribing, or following, then this is for you.
5. Buzzfeed Animals Newsletter - Nonprofit work can be hard. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to happiness and stress relief delivered right to your inbox by Buzzfeed who curates the cutest animals on the internet. Thank you Buzzfeed.
In my last blog I promised to prove that pizza parlors are like nonprofits. So here goes.
As I was driving home one day I passed the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus. And there, to my amazement, on the east side of the street was a new pizza parlor. I was shocked, stunned and realized that I have to raise my voice about this situation. The fact that it replaced a cheese restaurant wasn’t the cause of my reaction. There are too many pizza parlors and as a concerned community of consumers we have to do something about it.
Let me share why I think there are too many pizza parlors.
Duplication. This should be obvious. I mean, how many pizza parlors do we need? There is another pizza parlor just across the street that has been there for many years and makes really good pizza. Then there is another pizza parlor on Downer, not a mile away – the rebirth of the venerable Pizza Man. Then, go to North Ave and there are a host of other pizza parlors. If you want pizza, you can get pizza. Did we really need another pizza parlor near UWM? We need diversity of eats, not the same stuff over and over again. This is simply unnecessary duplication.
Resources are stretched too thin. This is true in any number of ways. First, I doubt that each of these parlors near UWM had the resources they needed to open, which means they had to ask for loans from banks. How many pizza parlor loans do banks have available? If they keep making these loans to these small pizza parlors, what will happen when the big pizza parlor with the best pizza in the world comes along? There won’t be a loan available anymore because too many small ones have been given out.
We also have to realize that the pockets of the hungry students aren't deep. Think back to the days when you were at college. Could you afford to buy enough pizza to keep as many as 4 parlors open?
Then there’s the issue of staff. There simply are not enough good pizza makers available to staff all of these pizza parlors adequately. Heck knows that if you have a bad cook, you have bad pizza. And servers. Where are all the servers going to come from? It isn’t fair to the banks that have made the loans to do a bad job with making and serving the pizza. In the end, it means the waste of a good loan.
Size and scope. Yes, there are many hungry young people living and studying in the UWM area. But the only way to have a meaningful impact on all that hunger is to have big pizza parlors. Pizza parlors that can make and serve pizza in large numbers and quickly. The small, artisan type pizza parlors take too long to prepare and serve pizzas to have an impact on that hungry horde of students. A pizza parlor that can seat only 8 tables cannot hope to have any real impact.
And only the big pizza parlors can afford to track the results of their pizza making, recording how many students have come to buy pizza, and are they returning to buy more pizza? This is a real indicator that the loan the bank made is having a positive impact. If they are eating pizza, their hunger is satisfied. If they come back and eat more pizza, they are not hungry for another day. Chalk up a positive outcome! The small pizza parlors don't track these things. They ask no questions about the customers and so have no information about them that can be used to measure impact.
So here is what I propose. Merger. The small pizza parlors should come together to become one large pizza parlor. Then they'll have the size and scope to truly serve a hungry neighborhood around the university. They will be able to spread their resources to reduce the number of cooks and replace them with delivery people who can take the food directly to the hungry students. There can be a restaurant that seats hundreds if not thousands of people.
The savings and efficiencies are easy to predict and exciting to think about. We would need to pay for only one oven, instead of several. We can buy tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese in bulk!
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. If any of this sounds foolish, it’s because it is. These are the same foolish arguments that are leveled at the nonprofit sector. There are too many nonprofits, the argument goes. Only large nonprofits can have an impact, so the small ones should merge and become big. There are not enough resources to go around, stretching the donors’ resources too thin. Why is that? Why can we let for-profit organizations try and succeed (or not) but feel we have to control the nonprofit population? At NPC, we've heard on occation that it's our job to make sure there are fewer nonprofits by promoting merger rather then encouraging the creation of new ones. I don't know - I'm not convinced that's our role. I do not want to be the one who said "No" to the great big idea.
So, see? Nonprofits are like pizza parlors. Let the market decide.
In just seven seasons, Shakespeare in the Park has delivered great outdoor theater to over 18,000 people - many of whom could not otherwise afford the experience.
NPC sits down with Executive Director, Susan Scot Fry, for a conversation about why accessibility to theater is so important and how to stay focused on the big picture.
The reports of our death are greatly exaggerated.--Mark Twain
Blog from the Big Chair by Rob Meiksins
Usually when I write a blog there's a certain tone - a little sarcastic, a little funky. This blog post is going to be different. We've just made huge changes at NPC – you’ve probably heard about it. So this time I need to get serious and explain what we're up to. Here goes:
For many years, NPC has been a primary player in nonprofit capacity building. The landscape for all nonprofits is changing, however, and we're no exception. More players have joined the field while the capacity-gaps of nonprofits are growing more complex. Our job is to keep pace with those changes, adapting as necessary to offer relevant solutions for the hurdles facing the sector.
That's the backdrop behind recent staffing changes and soon-to-be launched programmatic changes here at NPC - a backdrop that set the stage for taking a dose of our own capacity-building medicine. Internally, we asked hard questions about our work and its impact and uncovered profound, course-correcting answers. We talked with nonprofits, foundations and thought leaders around the state, but more importantly - we listened. We listened in private interviews, town hall meetings and small group sessions to learn what the sector thinks about the future and how NPC is best positioned to help.
While our long-term vision evolves - determined by changes to the sector itself - it's time I gave clarity on what we do know about NPC's new vision, especially in regards to key programmatic changes.
NPC will incorporate an evidence-based model into our educational programming. Nonprofits rely on NPC's affordable educational programs, a cornerstone of what we do and something that we do best. And now we're going to do it even better. Funding agencies and governments increased their focus on nonprofit effectiveness and accountability. In response to that pressure, NPC will incorporate an evidence-based model into our educational programming. The model is built around factors proven to increase nonprofit success, factors we call core competencies.
We strongly believe this shift will create a capacity-building anchor in our region, increase the odds that nonprofits will do their best work, and that both constituency and donors alike will benefit. Look for an upcoming blog post introducing the core competencies and discussing them in detail. In the meantime, take a look at the Maryland Nonprofits' Standards for Excellence, a solid example of how an evidence-based approach to capacity building can be a win-win for everyone.
Beginning in the fall, educational programming at NPC will align with the core competencies. Instructors will still bring their unique background and experience, but courses will now build upon each other and fit into a system designed to build strength in the core areas. If you are an NPC instructor, look for an info session in July to discuss the core competencies in more detail.
Assessment will now figure strongly into how we do capacity-building. Don’t get me wrong, this is far from a cookie-cutter approach! We believe in the old adage that “If you’ve seen one nonprofit, you’ve seen one nonprofit.” Because the picture of effectiveness changes depending on leadership, size and stage in the nonprofit life cycle, assessment is crucial to know which core areas might require attention. And in a reverse lens, we'll offer donors a tool for greater clarity around program costs, to verify capacity gaps, and maximize impact on initiatives they invest in.
NPC is also making a commitment to evaluate the outcomes of capacity-building. We understand the need to answer basic questions about whether - and by how much - programs have achieved intended outcomes. This is often called downward accountability, and NPC intends to "walk-the-walk" by providing quantitative answers to how our programs benefit those we serve. It’s a “physician heal thyself” moment.
Capacity building means more than just skill building. It takes resources and collaborative relationships to fill the gaps. We see a critical need for a highly-networked nonprofit sector - nonprofits, funders, governments and businesses - working in unison for the greater good. Because NPC often has a front-line view on the who, what and how, we can mobilize connectivity and collaboration.
One way we do this already is through Leader and Learning Circles, which pull together groups for peer-to-peer mentoring and learning. In our next phase, we plan to partner aggressively with the corporate sector on a skill-sharing campaign to infuse nonprofits with highly-skilled volunteers in common areas of deficit such as governance (board positions), IT, human resources and marketing for example.
Nonprofits also need access to vetted resources. There exists no single place identifying resources, not to mention the uncertainty around credibility of resources. To help nonprofits find qualified consultants, we launched an online Consultants Directory this spring in partnership with the Nonprofit Management Fund. In our next phase, we'll partner again to expand directory offerings to include a wide array of resources.
Same mission, better practices. This is a new era for our sector. As an organization that serves that sector, we must be new as well - building on the strengths of our past, but providing relevant solutions for the hurdles of today. In practical terms, these changes won't impact what NPC does as much as how we do it. In one of my first blogs I described what we do as the Three Cs, and that still holds water. We still build capacity in the form of education and technical assistance. We're still champions of the sector, helping nonprofits voice their needs and tell their story to policymakers and the community. And we're still conveners, bringing people and ideas together to maximize our collective impact. The big change is that we'll continue our work with an intentional, evidence-based (but flexible) system of capacity building, providing greater clarity on if, and by how much, we're really making a difference in the sector.
Ok, that’s it for now. I’ll return to my sarcastic, funky tone – thanks for listening. I hope you get a sense of how excited I am about this new model for us. But enough of being serious. Next time I intend to get back to my usual blogging style as I explore the similarity between nonprofits and pizza parlors.
Dear Friends of NPC,
The first 20 months of my tenure as Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee CEO have been filled with opportunities to help the organization be agile and responsive to the sector it serves. We listened to our members, supporters and the nonprofit community as a whole to better understand the role that NPC's mission fills.
Through internal analyses, gathering recommendations and expertise from the community and identifying priority areas of focus, the organization has identified new and critical opportunities for growth. I would like to take a moment now to give a brief update on some important changes to our organization.
Over the next few months, the organization will move forward with renewed purpose and attention to capacity building, advocacy, programming and communications. While we are still putting the pieces of our plan in place, it is apparent that significant changes will be made - changes that are in the best interest of the organization in meeting its long-term vision, strategies and goals.
In order to prepare for broader organizational changes, we determined that a staffing restructure is needed to best serve our constituents. Unfortunately, this means that we are eliminating three long-time NPC positions - Client Relations Director (Margaret Thom), Training Coordinator (Susanne Vella) and Corporate and Events Manager (Debbie Knepke).
We sincerely thank all three of these wonderful people for their years of service to our members and to this organization. We wish them all the best for the future.
Change is sometimes difficult, but essential. As the next phase of NPC evolves, we are eager to continue using your feedback for guidance. We want to remain responsive to your needs, helping you help your community. So please feel free to call or email me at any time to ask questions, offer suggestions or make a comment.
Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee