But multiple speakers stressed the need for our sector to take back both qualitative evaluation as a legitimate form of measurement and to champion the other critical impacts we have in community, such as improving the social fabric, personal fulfillment and quality of life.
Here are a few highlights from the plenary sessions of the 2013 Alliance for Nonprofit Management conference in Newark, NJ.
From the mission statement
“The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage.”
On our recent vacation, we had the great fortune to experience some incredible natural and cultural sites of the US National Park Service, among them:
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Zion National Park
- Pipe Spring National Monument
- “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign on the National Register of Historic Places
- Crazy Jug Point of Grand Canyon National Park
Thank you to the past Congresses and Presidents who had the foresight and wisdom to preserve and maintain these extraordinary places for future generations.
And thank you, National Park Service, for your graciousness and welcoming presence. We were happy to see our tax dollars working for the enjoyment of so many people, from all around the world.
But what if instead of these solely fiduciary roles, the Finance Committee also facilitated strategic thinking within the Board about the short and long-term financial condition of the organization by: developing a deeper financial analysis of organizational health, developing financial literacy among the directors, analyzing trends, preparing long-term financial forecasts based on different strategic scenarios, bringing strategic financial issues to the attention of the board for discussion and planning
and leading the discussion on key performance indicators for the Board and then revising financial reports accordingly
Nonprofits expect to serve more people in 2012, yet they also anticipate reduced revenues from major funders, particularly state and federal grants and contracts, according to the 2012 State of the Sector survey from Nonprofit Finance Fund. The 2012 report extends a dramatic three-year trend of steeply rising demand for services in the face of declining revenues. Sixty percent of those surveyed don’t believe they can meet the anticipated need for their services this year.
The survey is the latest of five conducted in two-year intervals by Nonprofit Finance Fund. While the survey does not represent a statistically valid sample of all U.S. nonprofits, the number and diversity of respondents (4,500 nonprofit managers from representing all major nonprofit fields and a range of annual budgets) does create a revealing cross-section of American nonprofits.
The financial squeeze has been particularly tough for nonprofits addressing child poverty, housing insecurity and homelessness, hunger and other human needs that have exploded during the last four years of economic decline and dislocation. These service providers take the brunt of state and federal disinvestment in social services and penny-pinching tactics such as delayed reimbursements.
More than three quarters of nonprofits said that state and federal funding did not cover the full cost of services provided. Sixty-six percent of respondents affected by government cutbacks and shortfalls dipped into reserves to meet the excess cost of services. Among all nonprofits responding, 57 percent said they had only enough cash on hand to meet operating costs for three months or less.
Nonprofits spend a lot of time and effort trying to change what other people do, from influencing a teen to quit smoking to getting a prospective donor to write that first check. Why is it that our most logical arguments and most eloquent appeals so often fall on deaf ears?
Because behavior changes like these are driven by face-to-face contacts and peer pressure, not our logical minds, according to Alex Pentland of MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab, interviewed on NPR’s Here and Now recently.
“We’re not really as rational as we think we are.” he told Here and Now host Robin Young. “If you want to change their behavior, giving people arguments is probably the wrong thing to do.”
Pentland studies human behavior using smart phones and other devices to track his subjects’ every movement and social interaction. He also uses phone polls to supplement the tracking data with subject reports on everything from their opinions to their weight. These “digital bread crumbs” give Pentland a huge amount of new and highly accurate data about what people really do all day (and night).
“What are the behaviors that lead to decisions?” Pentland asks. In study after study, he finds that it’s who we spend time with, not what we learn consciously, that predicts our decision-making. “Most of the decisions you make about behavior are ‘when in Rome do what the Romans do’ behaviors.” Read more
Reading Stewardship didn’t actually shift my values … instead, it was a bright illumination of my own thoughts about my role in life, about governance and management, about working in organizations and about serving my community. I’ve always been drawn to a life in the social change sector. Whether volunteering, working at a nonprofit, or serving nonprofits through my consulting practice, service has always been integrated into my life, never just an appendage to the other things that I do.