On October 10th we were very happy to share in celebrating the Nonprofit Roundtable's 10th Anniversary at the Kellogg Center at Gallaudet University. This celebration brought together some of the best and brightest from the nonprofit community, and those in attendance we lucky to hear three tremendous speakers, Mario Morino of Venture Philanthropy Partners, Paul Lee of Google.org, and Benjamin Todd Jealous of the NAACP. The first of these speakers, Mario Morino, offered what some might consider "tough love" for the nonprofit sector, discussing the turbulent economic changes at hand and the ways that this morphing landscape will affect nonprofits in the future.
To call Mario Morino a star in the DC nonprofit and business sectors does not do justice to his years of dedication and service to the community. Having started both the Morino Institute and Venture Philanthropy Partners, he has long realized the benefit of using his business experience with his endeavors like the Morino Group and ObjectVideo to benefit groups serving his long standing passion for education. This led to the development of educational tools like the YouthLearn Guide*, now published by the Educational Development Corporation, and groups like the Youth Development Collaborative that helped create networked learning centers in the District of Columbia during the early years of teen internet engagement.
It is this same mentality and eye towards maintaining a strong nonprofit business model that Mario addressed the group at the Nonprofit Roundtable's 10th anniversary. In keeping with the theme of "Stronger Together" he made the point that nonprofits must be willing to act in true collaboration in order to be successful in the future, meaning that organizations and people must be willing to make real sacrifices in order to better help each other and the sector be successful. Doing this, Morino posited, will require that the leaders of nonprofit organizations "weave a culture of performance" into every aspect of their mission, putting at the forefront the need to make good decisions regarding allocation of resources and time while truly analyzing their organizational structure and performance to better acheive goals. To be able to make the leaps that we will need to make as further underrresourced organizations, we must build these organizations with strong business practices and structures that will allow for unbiased analysis and empower effective dissemination of organizational message.
One of the primary points of the speech by Mr. Morino had to do with the importance of good decisions in staffing for nonprofit organizations, as having dedicated staff who truly care about the mission at hand is crucial to maximize payroll resources in the new reality of a changed economy. As he so boldy stated it, "It is not about numbers, it is not about models, it is not about best practices, it is about best PEOPLE," and that finding these people and the way to network with stakeholders, donors, volunteers, and hire staff that show true dedication is a vital building block of the successful 21st century nonprofit. We must develop the tools that our organizations need to succeed and realize the benefits of a world more tied together by technology and communication than ever before.
While it sounds like an easy and cliched answer, the primary focus for nonprofits in the coming years will be doing more with even less, so being prepared for this inevitable reality will allow greater mission success and impact within society. The goal of the nonprofit sector as a whole is to affect change in society that will lead to a brighter and more just future, and the only path that leads to those results in the 21st century will require the nonprofit sector to truly collaborate, engage in fact-based analysis, and figure out how to engage those dedicated staff and volunteers that will help you make the leap to a high performance and impactful future for your nonprofit.
*Disclosure: CEDC contributed to the YouthLearn pilot and the YouthLearn Initiative.