Last week I had the distinct pleasure of presenting alongside Kim Tanner, Executive Director of The Jenesis Group, to a room filled with progressive funders at Philanthropy Southwest: Rise Together. The topic of our session was “Going Beyond the Check: Bolstering Leadership and Organizational Health.”
Our session — and the valuable connections and conversations that followed — left me feeling energized and ready to continue the important and essential work of achieving human and financial sustainability by serving our nonprofit leaders. My experiences over the four days assured me that the funding community recognizes the challenges our sector faces and is eager to help lead the way for change.
Philanthropy Southwest Session Takeaways
During our presentation we conducted a live poll of the audience and asked them to identify the problem area they saw facing their grantees most consistently across their portfolios.
I wasn’t surprised to see the following reflected in the results:
- Revenue Sustainability and Fundraising were the number one challenge identified, by far, followed closely by Leadership.
- Program Challenges were the LEAST mentioned by funders … which means we have come a long way in addressing program health. Now it is time to turn our focus and energy to financial and leadership health – challenges that have grown much more prevalent.
We shared the learning journey of The Jenesis Group, and how they have worked intentionally to help address these very issues within their portfolio by offering programs like RevJen provides (in addition to the grant they provide their grantees, I might add). I have to tell you, it was gratifying and encouraging to see the head nods, furious pen writing, and engagement of those in the room. It’s proof positive that the funding community recognizes the real challenges facing so many nonprofit organizations and leaders – and they want to help.
Sometimes it is hard to just know how and where to start which can paralyze even the best into a wait and see mentality. We are hopeful that the message we shared by example resonates — it is ok to fail! As Kim said in the room, they have reframed failure into learning (Forward Advances In Learning). It reminds me of what my mentor used to say to me: “Do something. Even if it’s right.”
We are ALL in this together and it will take ALL of us to address the multitude of issues contributing to these challenges (you will hear more from me about these root causes in the future). The funding community can’t do it alone. Nonprofit leaders can’t do it alone. And organizations like RevJen can’t do it alone. But by working together, I am confident that we can make a difference for the changemakers working tirelessly to build a brighter future for us all.
And so, today I encourage you to JUST START. Do something for you, your organization, or your grantees. Share stories, talk about needs, offer support. Because change can only happen … if we start.