Thursday, February 07, 2008

Non Profit Congress - For the Common Good of Non Profit Sector

I've joined the Non Profit Blog Exchange once again and have been partnered with a blog on the web site of the Non Profit Congress. I had visited this web site in the past, and even posted a few comments, but the blog exchange encouraged me to take a new, and deeper look.

I found a lot of things to like. For instance the overall purpose is to a) Increase Capacity at all levels of nonprofit organizations; b) help networks of non profit leaders grow at the local, state, and national level; and, c) Inspire Engagement at the state and local level to increase involvement in non profit capacity building in all states, across all sectors.

I see many efforts on this site to give a voice to anyone who wants to offer an idea, or wants to get involved. This is good.

Because I'm such a fan of maps, I was pleased to see a map of the United States, that you can click to find contact information for local leaders in different states. Looks like Illinois could use some local leadership.

However, I see room for improvement, too. I'll write about these suggestions here, and post them on the Non Profit Congress web site also.

I think that there are more than a few organizations and networks trying to mobilize others for the common good. However, I don't see that reflected on this web site, with links pointing to others doing similar work. For instance,

a) on Feb. 12 and 13, 2008 the President's Council for Service and Civic Participation is hosting a CEO Summit in New York City, with a goal of unleashing $1 billion in corporate volunteer talent to support the non profit sector.

b) the Non Profit Congress will hold its 2008 National Meeting in Washington, DC on June 1-4. Unfortunately, the National Conference on Volunteerism and Community Service will be held in Atlanta, on June 1-3. My own Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is May 29 and 30, in Chicago.

While the Non Profit Congress does a good job of enabling people to participate on the site, they, and Points of Light, and others need to enable people attending conferences in one place to connect with others who are attending similar conferences, in other places. In the Tutor/Mentor Conference format we've created a List of Attendees that participants can subscribe to. This encourages people to contact folks who will be attending our conference, before, during, or after the event. It's what happens between conferences that proves the value of a conference, or a network.

I'd like to see more people who convene groups -- for conferences, press releases, research briefings, etc. -- do this, so the people inspired by an event can connect with each other, in a variety of formats, to do the work the conference or event was trying to inspire.

c) while it's great to build a national movement, and generate more public awareness, unless this distributes public attention, volunteers, and operating dollars, to every part of the country, and to small organizations, as well as national brand names, it's not going to help improve the capacity of thousands of non profits who struggle every day to do good work.

I would like to see the Non Profit Congress borrow a concept from the Boston Innovation Hub, and add an issues map, so that people interested in a similar issue could group together more easily, and work within their sub group, not just their state, to achieve the overall goals of the Non Profit Congress.

I would also like to see them point to Internet-based databases that enable volunteers and donors and clients to search for specific programs in specific zip codes.

What's great about the Non Profit Congress is that I can not only write these ideas in my blog, but I'm encouraged to provide them as suggestions on the NPC's web site. I encourage you to take a look, read their blogs, visit the sections on Public Awareness, Capacity Building and Leadership, and become part of this effort.


Elisa said...

Hi Daniel,
This is Elisa over at NCNA and the Nonprofit Congress. Thanks for the compliments and suggestions--we always appreciate both.

A couple of clarifying questions and comments:
a) We've posted links to a bunch of other organizations/efforts, but of course, we aren't aware of all of them (the President's Council Summit in NYC for example). Also, we want to make room for others to post (as you mentioned) and after a bunch of postings from us, the website was starting to look a bit 'top heavy'. We definitely encourage anyone to post up good links, events, ideas, info, and resources.

b) We found out about the dates for the Conference on Volunteerism and Community Service after we'd booked our meeting dates unfortunately. Do you have some further ideas for how we can connect attendees at each event? Do you suggest using technology-based solutions (webinars, etc) or other tools? If so, what are some good solutions you know of?

C) While we welcome all kinds of nonprofits in this effort, our focus is on the small to midsize nonprofits that make up almost 60% of the sector. The National Capacity Building Initiative (NCBI), our major policy priority, seeks to create a federal revenue stream to build capacity among organizations nationwide with budgets under $5 million. There is more on our website at

We also consciously involve organizations from all subsectors. In terms of providing a space for people interested in the same issue to group, that's what the Top Priorities and their corresponding tabs at the top of the website are intended to do. Beyond our missions and locations, we're all connected by issues of nonprofit organizational effectiveness, grassroots advocacy, and public awareness.

Again, thanks! We'd love to hear more about any ideas or suggestions you hear. And I promise that I'll get to your blog review in the next few days :)

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Hi Elis,

Have you read the book titled The Spider and the Starfish? It talks about decentralized organizations.

I think that the concept of helping all non profits is too large to do from one site. Instead, I recommend trying to empower many different groups to adopt the goals of the NON Profit Congress, and use a vareity of different formats to acheive them. I know you're doing this by encouraging local networks to grow, but I think that in some cases this creates new infrastructure on top of existing networks and organizations.

I was a Chicago delegate to the 1997 Presidents' Summit for America's Future. Instead of this resulting in new help for existing organizations, it lead to new groups starting from scratch to learn what the issues were, and to generate support for their efforts. If it had build a database of existing organizations and use the visibility of living presidents to say "make a donation" it would have done more to get resources to the troops already on the battlefield.

I aim for self interest in the events I organize. Does it help someone get an idea, a volunteer, a dollar?

I also reach out into other people's space to share my ideas, build networks, and encourage collaboration. The Blog Exchange is an example. We all need to do this as part of our own network building.

I pointed to a feature on the T/MC conference web site that enables people to not only see who is attending, but to contact them. If others build similar features into their conference sites, this can help more people connect with each other, and the relationships that come from this can stimulate more work toward the common goals we all share.

As to scheduling conflicts. This can't be avoided. There are a growing number of people getting into the conference business, and the networking and webnar business. Yet we still only have 24 hours in a day, and other priorities in our lives. This means as an intermediary, we need to keep adding value that unites people. I do this with my maps, and with my constant effort to help all tutor/mentor programs get needed resources.

Finally, I think the focus on government funding is misguided. With government funding comes bureacracy that eats some of the dollars, and reduces flexibility. I'd rather see government incentives to give tax breaks to people who donate money or volunteer time in high priority charities (education, workforce development, poverty reduction, health care, research, etc.)

I look forward to reading your blog and finding time to contribute on your web site.