I was very fortunate to attend the National Independent Sector/Council of Michigan Foundations Annual Conference in Detroit earlier this month. It was inspiring to be among the 1,100 people from over 30 states who came together to share insights, build collaborative skills through interactive sessions, and delve into issues facing the nonprofit sector today.
Many of the themes of the three-day conference aligned with a plenary presentation made by Diana Aviv, president of Independent Sector:
- It’s past time to really work together across the ‘silos’ of business, government, and nonprofit; and
- As individuals, organizations, and collaborations, we must think and act for the ‘big picture’ because, to survive and thrive, we must acknowledge our interdependence.
Below is a summary of her comments as published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
--Bobbe A. Luce, ONEplace @ kpl
Nonprofit Leaders Urged to Rethink Their Role in Society
Expanding on a key theme of this year’s Independent Sector conference, Diana Aviv, the group’s president, called on nonprofit leaders at all organizations – regardless of size or mission – to take a broad view of their work and their responsibility to help make society better.
“We do not and cannot work in a vacuum,” she told participants at the gathering of charities and grant makers, which drew some about 1,100 attendees in all.
“If our employees and their families can’t afford medical care, it limits their productivity,” she said. “If our transportation infrastructure makes it hard to get to work, it affects people’s performance. If we don’t collectively attend to the harm inflicted on our environment, polluted air and climate change will ultimately damage everyone’s work. And if we don’t demand greater civility in Congress and in the public square, we diminish our ability to achieve our aims.”
Ms. Aviv urged nonprofit leaders “to attend to these larger issues long before they threaten our work.”
As an example of the consequences of not doing so, she cited the experiences of health and human-services groups that now must take on loans as state and local governments increasingly delay payments for services already provided.
“Except for a sliver of public-interest organizations, at no time did we step up and try to fix a system that we have known to be problematic for years,” she said. “Why was this the case? Because we have long believed that these larger issues were not our responsibility.”
She called on participants to go back to their organizations and have at least one board meeting within the next year to define a role for their groups beyond their specific issue or cause.
“My point is that excelling at your particular mission is key – but so too is attending to the wider societal issues of the world you inhabit,” she said. “Active engagement with these issues is part of the price we pay for this special place we, as a community, have been afforded by society.”
— Jennifer Moore
Independent Sector and Council of Michigan Foundations Annual Conference