Friday, October 15, 2004

MCN Keynote by Pablo Eisenberg

Keyonte by Pablo Eisenberg (A variety of links here. His comments on the Senate staff regulation proposals here.) , response by Emmett Carson (President of the Minneapolis Foundation and Chair of the Council on Foundations).

A good dose of old fashion righteous indignation. (For once, Emmett Carson was cast as the moderate.)

Some high points of Pablo’s presentation (or low points for the nonprofit community):

In spite of growth in the nonprofit community, we are

  • Weaker, not stronger,
  • More fragmented,
  • Unable to address persistent problems
  • Poverty is increasing
  • Racism hasn’t abated
  • The U.S. political system is still broken

We may be a larger and more effective deliverer of social service but we are unable to collaborate to make change

  • There is growing commercialization and corporatization of the sector.
  • There is erosion of nonprofit values and nonprofits in danger of loosing public trust

There are three major challenges to the nonprofit community

  • Reclaiming the critical nonprofit role of advocacy in our society
    This has made our democracy vigorous and lasting
    It is the reason for many of the changes in our society
    This is more appreciated overseas than here
  • Investing in building future leadership
    Developing new leaders
    Developing the potential of young nonprofit leadership
  • Promote Civic Engagement

In some ways our society is getting what we deserve. The lack of civic engagement of the last decades has resulted in some of our current problems.

Finally Pablo noted that the sector needs to regain its sense of humor.

Emmett Carson's response:

  • “I agree with much of what Pablo had to say”
  • We have to admit that it costs money to help people—not every dollar will go to victims
  • We need standards and best practices.

    Expanding on that last point, Carson noted that we must insist state AGs and IRS enforce the rules we have. We need to insist that Congress fully fund the IRS (Comment by Pablo: The Council of Foundations, while paying lip service to increasing the resources for IRS and AGs—the have put NO resources toward that effort—they have concentrated on stopping any attempt to control the administrative costs in foundations.) We need to identify and isolate people and organizations who do it wrong.

Every nonprofit should find one issue consistant with their mission, to advocate for—advocacy can range from research to lobbying and a variety of things in between.
Pablo—added one thing—join together with other organizations

Plenary on Participation

Sean Kershaw, E.D. Citizen’s League:
“We live in a small cold state that was made great by people participating in our communities.” Our role of nonprofits is to create and sustain engaged communities

After the presentations, I asked: “How do you get meaningful participation from the single parent who is working two minimum wage jobs, has good ideas but no time. And, how do you address “participation to death”—some neighborhoods have been involved in public participation projects since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and still have significant problems and have not seen significant solutions.

The responses included using “In reach,” reaching people where they are, on their conditions meeting their needs. Another idea to change participation-- going to workplaces to get the participation. No one pointed out that we have to improve the economic conditions of these communities to get meaningful participation.

MCN Conference Early Morning Breakout

Ohmygod. They really mean early morning—starting at 7:45—not real good for someone who isn’t a morning person.

Emotional Intelligence: What it is and How It Can Change You and Your Organization?

I wasn’t going to go to this one—sounded way too “touchy-feely” for me. But it was good.

Great question from session leader—“How many of you think you are in sales?”—surprisingly few answered yes. I’d argue that most people in the room are in sales.

From session leader: Most people leave their jobs because of conflicts with their supervisor.

A lot of the session was about paying attention to people’s feelings and needs (starting with your own.) I missed the first part of the session so I didn’t hear the definition of Emotional Intelligence but it seems to be about getting things done by paying attention to people’s emotions. This fits with involving all staff in developing a database or a strategic technology plan (or any strategic plan for that matter).

Thursday, October 14, 2004

MCN Conference: Nonprofit Awards Reception

The evening reception was held about two blocks from the main conference location, this may be why there was such a big (at least 50% drop off in attendance). But it was a great location and great food and drink provided by St. Paul Travelers Foundation.

Most of the awards program was a pretty typical awards program (although there were some great programs highlighted).

The best presentation was by Jack Reuler, Artistic Director of Mixed Blood Theatre. He reminded everyone that we are about fulfilling our mission--that ideally, we can eventually complete our mission and go out of business.


MCN Conference: Developing Database Driven Communities of Change

This was a 3 hour session by Chris Hanson of This post includes some highlights and my take on the session.

Some highlights and my take on the session:

  1. People want to be part of a community. They want to share their interestes, experiences and needs. They want to have a sense of belonging and of being needed. They look to communities as part of their identity.
  2. A very basic online community is similar to a sales model. A nonprofit advertises a conference, class, workshop event or service on-line and the clients buy it.
  3. The more involvement people have the more the more they feel like a member of the community. Involvement may be letting people tell your organization their opinions. Involvement may be asking people to do things for you.
  4. Getting people involved in your organization makes it much more likely that those people will donate money to your organization.

Online communities are important for long-term sustainability of your organization:

  • Direct mail results are going down while cost going up—same with telemarketing.
  • People who are active in your community are more likely to give.
  • Use the community to know more about your donors.
  • Direct mail response is from the older part of the audience—they are getting older. Younger audiences use online much more.
  • Easier to give on-line and easier to take action online.
  • Internet is getting to be the primary form of communication. (e.g. email has surpassed phone in business.)

Before you start using online tools to build a community, you need to think about:
The purpose of the community.

  • How are you going to provide the staff support for the community (building a community requires a community organizer)
  • What is the overall cost of the technology and staff time
  • Is it worth it

Don’t believe the basic myth of the Internet—“If you build it they will come.” Without an effort to get people to your community, they will NOT come.

Tools for online communities:

  • Chat rooms
  • Bulletin boards
  • Central sharing resource
  • Email discussion list
  • Web based discussion groups
  • Newsgroups
  • Blogs
  • Online conferences
  • Instant Messaging

In building or choosing the technology, the technology should

  • Allow building relationships based on interests of participants
  • Allow collaboration with similar organizations
  • Allow as much control as possible by the participant
  • Keep the amount of personal information required low

Some examples:

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Annual Conference

I'm spending the next day and a half at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits' 18th Annual statewide conference. It looks like it is going to be great. Expect some more posts from the conference. Some things about the conference:
  • Theme: “Participation! Creating and sustaining engaged communities
  • Keynote address: Pablo Eisenberg
  • About 975 people registered!
  • 50 exhibitors
  • Almost 40 sessions

The first session I'll be attending is titled "Developing Database Driven Communities of Change." Since there is no wireless access from the convention, expect a blog on that session tonight.

Sheldon Mains
Technology solutions for nonprofit organizations.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Resource for all volunteer nonprofit organizations

Are you on the board of an all volunteer nonprofit organization? Compasspoint-- a great nonprofit management support organization in San Francisco--is making their