By Rob Meiksins, CEO
In the last installment of the Blog from the Big Chair, I wrote about the need for nonprofits to speak up and be the voice for the clients they serve. In fact, I offered it as a challenge, asking you, gentle reader, to accept it as part of your work this coming year. I am very excited to share with you that we are going to be taking a dose of our own medicine.
As some of you know, the Wisconsin Nonprofits Association has been in existence for a number of years. Recently it has been fairly quiet, though, which is a shame because a statewide association could and should be the voice for nonprofits in our state. In fact, that’s WNA’s tagline: The Voice for Wisconsin Nonprofits.
After almost a year’s worth of discussion, we have entered into an agreement, and the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee is going to manage the Wisconsin Nonprofits Association in 2017. So that means we are now going to fulfill the role of promoting the sector and the organizations in it. We will be that voice of nonprofits in the state. It is a very exciting honor for us, but we also know that there is a lot of work to do.
WNA’s mission is “to help strengthen Wisconsin nonprofits.” This is done by promoting a legislative agenda at both state and local levels, by offering capacity building through training and consulting, by providing access to resources, and through ways to connect organizations and people to each other. With the exception of the advocacy piece, this is a perfect match of the ways that the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee engages with nonprofits in southeastern Wisconsin.
A Statewide Voice for the Nonprofit Sector
We believe that it's absolutely critical that there be a strong statewide association providing a voice for the sector. It's good for nonprofits throughout the state and especially for organizations in and around Milwaukee. As described in previous blogs, it is likely that the new administration in Washington will make some changes that will have an impact on social services at the state level. So we need to engage with legislators and talk with them about these issues, finding ways we can share our message and promote our causes.
We’re going to follow the lead of the National Council of Nonprofits on much of this. They have their finger on the pulse of what's happening in Washington and are communicating with the statewide associations. One of the first things we're going to look out for is the state budget that should be released soon. It'll be important to see what initiatives are in there and compare them to the concerns of the NCN, particularly around issues like property tax exemption, health care, and access to social services.
But we also know that nonprofit leaders around Wisconsin have concerns, issues, and ideas, and we need to pay attention. So one of the first things we're going to do is to talk with as many people as we can. We would like to visit at least four centers of nonprofit activity this year, listening to what people have to say. While we're there, we'd also like to bring some educational programs with us.
Continue Our Commitment to Southeastern Wisconsin
The commitment we've made is for one year. It is critical that we not lose focus on serving our base clients, the nonprofit sector in southeastern Wisconsin. We want to take this year to see what we can do to rebuild WNA, but also to see if we can do that while maintaining the level of work we do with the folks close to home.
To get a little personal, I am really excited about this. I am super passionate about our sector and the work we do, and I want NPC and WNA to support and promote that work in every way possible. I'm also a little nervous as these are uncharted waters for us. I know this is going to stretch them, but I'm also confident in the team here and that we can do this. So I'd also like to thank the leadership of WNA’s board, Shelly Schnupp, Dave Globig, Fil Carini, and the others for having faith in us and giving us this chance.
Things just changed for us. On the other hand, they haven't. I know 2017 is going to be unlike any year NPC has ever had, because we are taking on WNA. But this is the same work we already do, just on a bigger scale. So things have changed, but they remain the same.
We look forward to talking with you at our 2017 Members Meeting on February 24 to hear what you think of all this, and to take some direction from you about what are the critical issues we need to pay attention to for the local nonprofit community and for the statewide sector. Of course, you don't have to wait for that meeting – you can simply reply to this blog and tell us what's on your mind.