During the Michigan Nonprofit Association SuperConference (May 4-6), major speakers and workshop leaders focused on the challenges and opportunities inherent in our current economic environment.
Every one of the people I listened to – from Juan Williams and Bill Strickland to Patricia Martin and Barry Demp – talked about the need to “critically assess current realities” and “seize the moment” to act with bold ideas and actions.
They talked about assessing social, educational, employment, and political trends, now, compared to the trends when the last major economic downturns occurred…and ask, “How far have we come—or not come” in making the world a better place for every person. And, “How can we NOT lose this opportunity” to make significant improvements our organizations and help people become more self-sufficient at the same time?
Juan Williams told a long story based on [the ghost of] Martin Luther King, Jr. stopping by the conference, today,—40+ years after his death—and viewing current media, topics of conversation, race relations, employment, etc. “He” was stunned: from rap language and hip-hop dress to what is seen on TV sitcoms, to the lack of progress on poverty and illiteracy rates. It was a very powerful scenario that continues to resonate.
They also challenged us to seize the opportunity to take new, bold approaches; collaborate, merge, and develop new organizational models that are more efficient and cost effective while maintaining mission-based work. Consider how many more people could be served if one building housed and administered several nonprofits as a collaborative; where people good at programs and service delivery didn’t have to worry about administration and people good at the business-side of nonprofit organizations could do what they do best. Building on strengths and specialties.
Change is often hard. Change can also be exhilarating. Nonprofits are often “not so good” at change that demands creative restructuring: realizing the people needed for today and tomorrow aren’t the ones currently onboard; or, realizing others are doing the same things we are…and better; or, listening to new voices from outside whose ideas could improve a program or the entire organization because, “we’ve always done it this way and by ourselves.”
The MNA SuperConference is over for this year. I hope the messages shared here resonate with you as you work through whatever challenges your nonprofit is facing, today. What bold, new thinking can you bring to the table and act upon that will make your mission-driven work stronger for the days and years ahead. Don’t be afraid to be great!
“Great work is done by people who are not afraid to be great.” ~ Fernando Flores
Michigan Nonprofit SuperConference