Sunday, March 11, 2007

What are the big challenges?

I've got to put together a presentation for a gig coming up in a few months. It's about the biggest trends/issues/challenges that nonprofits face in the next five years. I've been thinking about this issue on and off for 10 years. It shows up in my books, in my other writings and in presentations, but my list has just slowly evolved, and I've never really started it from scratch.

Additionally, I was wondering what my blog readers think.

So, let's collaborate. Take a look at my list and post a comment or two. Do you agree? Disagree? Do you have issues to add? Some that we should remove? It's not a wiki, but by providing us your list, we can learn, comment and amend our own.

Here's mine--in priority order.

The Big Issues of the Next 10 Years

1. Funding.
Same old same old, but we're getting to a critical point which I think will lead to my issue #4. Government's ability to help is saddled with debt, direct fund raising is incredibly competitive and foundations and corporations often put so many restrictions on funding that it's a loss to take their money.

2. Accountability/Transparency/Outcome measurement.
We have to get even better at proving that our mission is worthy and that our way of accomplishing that mission works.

3. Generational Transition.
Our management teams are mostly over 55 and will move out. Who will be there to move in?

4.Unpaid Professionals.
I believe we're going to need to use more and more unpaid professionals (think: super-volunteers) to be able to afford to deliver services. With waning funding and more and more requirements for outcome measurement, this may be our only option.

5. Technology as a Mission-Accelerator. How do we incorporate technology in ways that make us more mission-effective?

6. Diversity. Ethnically, generationally, economically, culturally, and in terms of families, we're more diverse than ever. How can/will we respond with our services, our employees, our volunteers, and our technology?

Whew, that's enough. Think about these and tell me what I missed, what priorities are of order, what you would add or subtract.

Post away!


Alicia said...

Having worked in fundraising for international and national non-profits for the past 6 years, I think you are right on the mark to list funding as the #1 challenge facing non-profit organizations.

As more and more boomers enter the donor base, organizations are struggling with how best to market to this very fickle group. Donors increasingly view their contributions as investments and expect stock-market like returns. When non-profits falter, or, more often, fail to report back, boomer donors will simply move on to the next cause. Non-profits have to keep donor interest in a very saturated market.

Personally, I find the "pink ribbon inc" culture in the US right now (but a bracelet, save the world) incredibly troubling and ultimately detrimental to philanthropy. Instead of truly educating the public about issues, or rallying advocates to hit the streets, some organizations think the awareness-raising mission is complete when someone buys a bracelet. And donors, especially younger donors, are being taught that consumerism equals philanthropy.

Peter Brinckerhoff said...

Alicia, thanks for your great posting.
I had never thought about the link between consumerism and philanthropy, although I have been worried about the "buy a bracelet, save the world" issue from the perspective that it's just a quick "Look at me! I care!" purchase rather than a true commitment to a cause....and then this week data came out that volunteer hours fell again last year here in the US. Connection?

Again, thanks for your comments!

Luke said...

Big Challenges require Innovative Solutions.

3.)Generational Transition
4.)Unpaid proffessionals

I feel all of these aspects are inter-related and the solution comes in a two fold answer.


NonProfits need to begin weening themselves away from donations and government grants. We need to begin developing products and services that generate cash flow.

This allows for a paid staff.

This ensures that there are no 'compromises' to Big Business.

This enables us to finally work with top of the line equipment instead of having to use wrenches for hammers.

This also relieves our efforts and cleanses our reputation of being beggars. Allowing us to instead focus on getting the help to the people that need it.


Why do I see at least 10 adverts for McDonalds a day, and maybe 1 a week for a charity?(Figures may vary)

People out there know next to nothing about NonProfit Organizations. I have talked to many people who would love to help, but have no idea where to plug themselves in.

If people understood how exciting it can be to 'save the world'. I believe we can sleep soundly knowing the following generations are prepared to solve tomorrow's problems.

Eh...those are my two cents

Greg Smith said...

Tell me about it! I founded something that tugs on no one's heart strings, but could be extremely effective in helping numerous good causes by taking advantage of #5 in a big way. But, as per usual apparently, I haven't had the money to afford the software tools, or the database talent to work on what I've wanted to work on, so I have touched on but mainly worked around by making the "stick-shift" manual version with, which is obviously too much content to do for one person, while trying to raise money amongst unbelievers that I don't seem to know how to turn into believers as yet to send in more than 1/20th of what they said they were sending.

HOWEVER, the basic syllogistic motivation for (you know, that first screen you did for me over two years ago!) remains:

1st premise: Email from a bonafide constituent must be paid attention to by an elected representative, just like USPS letters, and Western Union telegrams. Calls cost money and time and there is no record except your phone bill. Petitions can be ignored unless they are broken down and delivered by congressional constituency. Protests are worse. They do next to nothing unless a few million people show up, and then they are just a media event these days, if even.

2nd premise: Not enough emails are sent to elected representatives (not "officials" - I hate that - are they our "officials" or do they represent us?). Current email numbers just literally are not a large enough statistical sample to represent the will of American voters, and so, those low numbers indicate either day-to-day apathy (likely) or ignorance (more likely) or just Americans' disbelief in their own ability to effect change (most likely). Therefore, legislators can send polite canned replies and go back to paying attention to lobbyists who can help them through legal side-stepping with campaign financing.

Conclusion: Automate the process of aggregating people by POV on issues directly related to bills; automate the process of email writing by POV on specific legislation; and allow voluntary en masse alerts to the POV groups to essentially have them all look at a pre-written letter on sign-in (at their leisure) and approve it in about 30 seconds per letter before hitting send to their respective elected representatives, and THEREFORE, at a statistically meaningful number, say 1.5% of registered voters, it's voila time, you have the will of American voters in numbers large enough (2.5 million) to scare elected representatives into worrying more about voters than lobbyists.

But what gets promoted ad nauseum instead? Blogging. But on the left and on the right almost have it right, but not quite, and precisely because they only represent the left and right and leave out the big middle. Ralph Nadar knew what he was talking about when he said, "Imagine what Congress would do if they received five million emails a day? They'd have to pay attention."

Right now, only 20,000 to 300,000 with an average of maybe 100,000 emails go to Congress per day from all sources. Peanuts. Statistically insignificant. Nothing will change except more globalization, regardless of major party. Corporations naturally form fascist states. That's just what they do. They can't help it. They need to be regulated by the majority of human citizens or it will all end rather badly at some point. This is all I can think of. Problem is, this is all I can think of even doing about it that could make a difference. To me, incremental differences through Greenpeace or whatever special interest organization is too random to effect change. The special interests offset each other and money wins.

But enough emails (probably around 1.5% of registered voters = 2.5 million people) will statistically represent the will of the people.

Anyway, you tell me a better way to say all this and I will. Right now, most of it is here:

Comment/rant ended.

Peter Brinckerhoff said...

Luke-both excellent points. I appreciate the post.

I completely agree about having more people know about the effect of nonprofits/NGO's in their community. Knowledge is power, in a very real sense here.

As to government dependence, I have two reactions. First, YES, we need to be more independent when we can...but it's unrealistic for some nonprofits to choose this path, for a wide variety of reasons. Second, for some organizations and some causes, the government is the ONLY customer they are ever going to have. For example, my sister lived for 30 years in a group home for the developmentally disabled, and no one but the state government is ever going to pay the $100,000 a year it costs to care for her. Certainly all the profits from a social entrepreneurship business wouldn't cover just her care, to say nothing of the four other people in her home or five other homes the nonprofit runs.

Thanks again for your post....keep them coming!

Peter Brinckerhoff said...

Thanks, Greg for your comment/rant. I have many clients that are similarly frustrated. Have you read "The Tipping Point" by Malcom Gladwell. It talks about turning an issue into a cause. Perhaps that could help your site and your cause.
Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

is this upcoming gig at north park university in chicago?

Peter Brinckerhoff said...

No, I AM doing a gig at North Park in May, but this is for a smaller group.

Mrs.Tsige said...

Dear Sir /Madam
Background of the center
The idea of founding Tsige Taddess Welaje Alba Yehisanat Masadegiya has come
into reality with the child loving inherent mature of the founder, Tsige Taddess.
18 years back, the founder has brought to light her child helping activity by supporting two children one boy and one girl ,Two years later ,i.e. 16 years ago, the founder has determined to expand her welfare effort to lift up to the present level.
It is Non –Governmental, Non- Political, and Non-Profitable Non religion welfare organization.
The orphanage center officially registered with the Ministry of Justice and Disaster Prevention and preparedness Commission in 2004, our registration CERTIFICATE number is 1518.The center of the organization is located 30 Km on the road to Desi, at place called Legedady. The founder is a kind of person who is easily affected but human hardship in general and that of children in particular .She has never thought of that she would ever be a Mother of her present ‘’big family’’ of 106 children whose age fall in age category of 3 month to 18 years .48 boy’s and 58girl’s, and out of them 2 girl’s are handicap.
No Age group Male Female Total
1 0-4 2 4 6
2 5-7 8 10 18
3 8-12 17 19 36
4 13-15 12 11 23
5 16-18 9 14 23
Total 48 58 106
At the beginning as the number of the children was small, she started to full her project by the money at her disposal, but soon, her project used up all her cash and demanded for more. She sold her jewelry’s, land many other valuable assets to keep alive her project, which was found in 1990.She has also used and still using her low scale dairy farming thought its contribution is continuation becoming negligible. Although, the founder of this organization proud of many children who have pass through her project and have now become sufficient and productive citizens and that saved many children from the darkness (possibility from death).she is dreadful of imminent danger coming fast to her organization for lack of fund to keep it function unless she get an immediate and sustain financial and material to support the kids if this not happen the orphans will be in problem.
Composition of the Children
As it has been mentioned above, the child currently receiving help are 106 from the founder, she don’t have any support. The orphanage center includes the following classes.
HIV/AIDS Orphans
Deserted children (deserted by their Parma mainly due to Economic reasons)
Thrown away babies (following unwanted pregnancies, economic problem)etc.
The organization is strongly commented to see all the children under custody to become self suffice and productive citizen of Tomorrow.
To bring up all the children the best possible way, care for their health, cloth lodging, education, healthy social interaction ethical conduct, etc.

Objectives of the organization
To create, as much as possible, a comfortable like environment (HOME), which is for the children to feed them and make them mentally and physically competent citizens.
To educate them well so that they become self sufficient, productive, nation building citizens who can lead a healthy social life.
The main problem in the center are :-

Food Problem
However hard we are working, we have lost our stamina of feeding this ‘’huge family’ unless we receive urgent aid from Ethiopian people and Ethiopian Government and any charitable individuals and humanitarian organizations it is imminent that our children will continue to be malnourished, starve, and eventually our child population will disperse, sending them back to a kind of life which is worse that the one we have brought them from, lack of finance coupled with skyrocketing inflation is accelerating our problem in this respect. There for, we are badly in need of immediate help from all concerned parties and child lover people and the Government.
Lack of potable water and fuel shortage
we have no potable water and fuel for our children .At present we are providing them with unsafe water from unprotected source {river} which is delivered on donkey’s back and sold for a relatively higher price. And we are not in a sound financial position, to provide them with enough of that kind of water mentioned above. Similarly we are in a serious shortage of water; therefore, we are badly in need of urgent help. The fuel we use the cow dung and the orphans collect leafs and wood from the forest we don’t any other way to use fuel.
The children where they live is in small place on land belonging to the founder of the organization .The available living space is very small for the huge number of children it is accommodating .Thus, the children are living in a crowded and uncomfortable place Our hundred six orphan’s children are accommodated for shelter in a 12 meter by 5 meter house .Built from local materials {wood and mud} and corrugated iron roof and divided it to three for boys, girls, and infants , thanks to Oromia Regional Administration we have been granted a land of 6612m Square area. But unfortunately, we couldn’t start any constriction on the land because we don’t have money for it to build. There for we are in need of help to start built building which can be house for our children, the property will be belongs to the orphans.
Health Service
Currently, we have no health service facility, which can help to treat our children in case they fall sick. Therefore in connection with this, we need to build one health post and junior heath professional .Here also we need the immediate help of all concerned bodies to successfully accomplish our mission.
Clothing, shoes, mattress, pillows, blanket, and bed sheets
We do not have enough of the above mentioned basic needs of our children .We are looking for some one who can immediately help us in providing these materials, we cant afford them .

Those who reached school age go to the government school and they are doing fairly good in their education next to the afore-mentioned basic necessities need to give the proper education to our children .We are planning to construct a school on the place we received from Oromia administrator without help we can’t materialize this vital need.

Word of the founder

Dear Sir/Madam
We hope that you have read all about the center, we are in need of your help, please let us save all the kids, help me and let we change there life in the future, with out your help the kids will not be good citizen.
W/ro. Tsige Taddess
Mrs. Tsige Tadesse Welajalba Yehisanat Masadegia Call for help
The orphanage found 1990 in the village called Legedady, since that time to now a great number of children who never suckled their mothers’ breast and who where forgotten to be human beings found abandoned in the forest, cliffs, and under every shrub, have been supported by Mrs. Tsiga Tadesse.
Particularly 2 twin female child one with her umbilical cord cut and the other with her umbilical cord not cut and still with the placenta where found abandoned and being dragged by dog and after picking them up and cutting her umbilical cord she faced a lot of problem and hardship now they are like other orphans living Soon after this and before recovering from her past difficulties, she also started raising 2 twin male children who where found left in a carton they also where saved by the founder and both are in good health and grow at the moment ,in addition to a male child ,who was born with both hands and feet joined together and found abandoned in the ground. Where she faced a lot of difficulties and hardship in providing medical treatments. Nevertheless, the difficulties that she has undergone, did not remain to be futile, us the twin female and male children are healthy and incomplete stage of development .The other thing is that, the child who did not look like a human being and was found abandoned, had his hands and feet stick through high medical follow-up and the power of God /ALLHA the child be come healthy.
Moreover ,she has been looking after ,raising and educating more than 100 Orphans ,who have lost their mothers and fathers by HIV AIDS ,which is killing so many people in the world and in our country ,and who where found abandoned in every place and totally forgotten to be human beings ,by going to different regions of our country and gathering them and providing shelter and fulfilling their basic needs ,whom she has to day enable them to reach maturity .
While several number of children are to day under her support ,the condition of their age very from an infant of 3 month days up to the highest age limit of 18 years ,this single individual (mother of poor) have accomplished all these ,with out having any deposit of property and by reducing from the throat of her own children and with out fulfilling the interest of her children and her self .In addition without thinking to the needs for the rest of her life and for the inheritance of her children and with out being worried for herself and her family .She has been doing this type of humanitarian and great work of benevolence with her small activity in this poor country and since she is a great example and symbol to the country.

During al these times and up to now she has accomplished this with out any kind of local or foreign support she had done this by her natural humanitarian behavior.
Whereas, we are poor citizens and at a stage, where it is impossible to think of raising a child from infancy up to the age of maturity by educating, providing clothes shelter and drinks and fulfilling medical needs etc, any personal can understand how serious a problem and challenge it is for one person to support more than 100 kids but this mother of poor is doing this by her natural humanitarian feelings.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Tsiga Tadesse , has so far been contributing and supporting as mach us as her capacity allows her and even more ,those children’s whom she found from different part of the country for example from Gojam , Debre zeit ,mojo ,Gonder ,Nazereth , Ambo, Wonjy and Addis Ababa .
She made all these contributions as a result of humanitarian Kindness to her country and people however she has faced all the problems alone to accomplish this charitable act for about 18 years.
At present this great mother is getting weaker in her strength and her small source of income being totally exhausted, while the number of people seeking help from her hands is increasing, if you like to visit the orphanage center you are most well come to visit the orphanage at any time it is located 30 k/m from the capital to the south East part of Ethiopia in the road of Desi or Debre-Brhan before Sendafa.
Now, she has got many problems the kids are growing there need is also grow she have luck of money no income she don’t have any means to satisfy there needs consequently for those children so she is in need of your help to save those kids ,she don’t want them to be in the street and be come beggars.
There for, before those children are dispersed, I am officially presenting the problem to all Ethiopian people and Ethiopian Government and any charitable individuals and humanitarian organizations I ask for help.
Word of the founder to Ethiopian Government after God /Allah you are the only one where we can ask for help please understand the problem I face and help me let my brain and heart rest in the rest of my life.
I have try to help those kids for 18 years with out any help but now I don’t have any income who are considerate and thoughtful to those children please we need your help. Save the kids.
I am asking this help behalf of the children to all Ethiopian People, Ethiopian Government and any humanitarian, charitable, individuals and organizations to extend their hands and forward their help before the life of those children is endangered and I am hopefully confident that I will receive positive answer and all the necessary support, I would like to thanks you for your time by the name of the kids.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”
“Mahatma Gandhi”
Mob-0911-403492 W/ro Tsiga Taddess, 0911 604687Dawit the son 0911 249079 {Abera English} 41238 Addis Ababa Ethiopia
With best regards
W/ro Tsige Tadesse

Edward said...

The following ten issues are positive developments, not obstacles. In the present environment, I don't see any obstacles that should make us throw up our hands, as has been the case in the past. Instead we can begin to see how to get to the point of mounting an effective attack on them. The campaign to end slavery in the British Empire took 50 years. So will this. All the more reason to get started right now.

1. We can now attack all of global poverty using computers and communications. One Laptop Per Child and Earth Treasury (Web site to appear) have plans to do so on maximum scale, several hundred million children and their families. The OLPC XO laptop costs less than the textbooks it can replace.

2. WiMax broadband wireless technology can be and is being deployed to cover 90% of the population of several countries, including the US, at about $10 per person covered. The last 10% will cost more, but in the meantime those people will mostly be within a reasonable travel time of covered areas.

3. The starting point for the OLPC program is that educated children can get jobs and start businesses, assuming the legal and business climate in the country permits this. If they can't get jobs locally, they will nevertheless have access to international markets.

4. Every community, no matter how poor in material terms, has cultural riches that can be turned into products for sale--art, music, food, clothing, crafts, stories. Many localities can grow agricultural varieties that are different from other areas, as in the markets for wine, coffee, tea, and chocolate.

5. An essential component of the program is Free Software, aka Open Source. Children can use any number of educational programs, including office suites, database, graphics, math of several kinds, music, programming, Web design, e-commerce, and much more, without cost being an issue for them or the schools. Programs can be adapted into any language or for any purpose without the need for permission. Free textbooks are proliferating.

6. Schools around the world can link up using every text, voice, and video channel on the Internet. They can learn together, teach each other, and go into business together. My NGO, Earth Treasury, is set up specifically to enable this.

7. Getting on the Internet fulfills several of the essential conditions of a competitive free market. (None of this Laissez-Faire nonsense, aka Freedom for the rich but not for the poor.) This includes access to the market, access to market information, and access to the production technologies of the Information Age. These conditions define a genuine free market. Since they are causes rather than results of freedom and efficiency, they have to be created by other than market mechanisms, in this case by making technology available.

8. When we can break the cycle of poverty at a profit all around, we don't have to beg for scraps and crumbs of funding. Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka has shown how villages can build village meeting halls, schools, clinics, roads, and village banks out of their own resources. The beginning of the process will be slow, but tens of trillions of dollars of new economic activity are coming.

9. Partners in Health, started in Haiti, is now reaching out worldwide to tackle the previously most intractable health problems, such as multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. One of the reasons for the success of PiH is that it treats health care as a fundamental human right.

10. The poorest people in the world are also the most helpless, with the least opportunity to be heard in the public conversation about our future. The XO laptop program proposes to give up to a billion hungry children and their families and communities that voice for the first time, and us our first opportunity to listen to them. I hope we will use it wisely.

Peter Brinckerhoff said...

Edward, great comment, thanks! I appreciate what your organization is doing and agree wholeheartedly with your philosophy of working for long term change.
Thanks again,