April 2015: Nonprofits Today

North country connects with 2-1-1

Columnist Bob Gorman

Columnist Bob Gorman

Since 2000, residents of Georgia and Connecticut have been using 2-1-1, the nationally authorized phone number that connects callers to nonprofit and government services offered in their community.

Since 2007, residents of Plattsburgh and communities in all but 10 New York State counties have enjoyed the same service.

And finally in February, 2-1-1 came to Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. [Read more…]

March 2015: Nonprofits Today

Build better communities together

Columnist Rande Richardson

Columnist Rande Richardson

“Everyone is special in their own way. We make each other strong. We’re not the same. We’re different in a good way. Together’s where we belong. We’re all in this together. And it shows when we stand hand in hand, make our dreams come true.”
— Disney’s “High School Musical.”

In 2010, I attended a nonprofit panel discussion. The reporter covering the event began her accounting of the gathering stating, “Organizations alike have various missions, but also the same problems: availability and affordability of services and programs.” In the same article, Watertown Family YMCA executive director Peter Schmitt said “the only way to solve the common problems is for agencies to put aside their differences and work together to come up with solutions, and create effective partnerships. We’ve got to quit being territorial. We can get more done if we work together. Drop the insecurities, let’s get it done” he said.

Amen! [Read more…]

Some tips for exceptional service

Nonprofits Today column || by Rande Richardson

Nonprofits Today column || by Rande Richardson

A new year always creates a marker between what was and what is yet to be. For the best nonprofits, this is a continual self-assessment process that happens all year long. It is no secret that the nonprofit landscape has changed significantly over the past decade and there is a heightened sense that the “new normal” is moving less from new and more toward normal. [Read more…]

Nonprofits Today: We can make ‘good enough’ better

Some of the best things in our communities came to be not because they were mandated, but because it was the will of the people to make it so. People from all walks of life have built and sustained some of our most cherished community assets. Our museums, libraries, health care organizations and a variety of other human service, arts and culture, environmental and quality-of-life enhancing entities exist as a result of the great north country charitable and can-do, giving spirit. [Read more…]

Ensure a successful partnership

Rande Richardson

Rande Richardson

Each year the Northern New York Community Foundation receives volumes of proposals, seeking support for allocation of finite resources. How do some funders make the critical decisions on who gets the grant? What criteria are contained in a grant proposal that makes it an ideal candidate for competitive funding? While this list is not all inclusive, it touches on the major points of what can help facilitate a successful funding partnership. [Read more…]

Give back and redefine philanthropy

Rande Richardson

Rande Richardson

The last few months of the year are an important time for nonprofit organizations. For many, November and December are when the majority of annual support gifts are made. On average, organizations receive roughly 40 percent of their annual contributions in the last few weeks of the year. As it has for over 25 years, the nonprofit community observes National Philanthropy Day during the month of November.

The word “philanthropy” can sometimes be intimidating. Even though by definition it simply means, “love of humankind,” somehow we mistakenly believe that a philanthropist has to be wealthy. I prefer to take the literal interpretation. While it is absolutely critical to have enough resources to carry out a mission, nonprofit organizations may survive on a few large gifts, but they almost never thrive on them.

Healthy organizations need investments of all sizes and in all forms. If something is worth doing, it is worth having broad ownership and inclusion. The best organizations recognize that a wide spectrum of community ownership is not only a core value, but most often results in a better product. [Read more…]

Developing a ‘social conscience’

Rande Richardson

I recently had the joy of participating in interviews of more than 20 candidates for the Community Foundation’s next class of Youth Philanthropy Council members.

One of the questions asked of these high school students was, “what is your definition of quality of life?” Nearly all of the responses included the word “happiness” and referenced how a community “feels.”

While it seems simple, a community’s happiness is affected by a variety of factors, including many that are made possible through the structure of a nonprofit organization. These young leaders have a sense for what defines quality of life, and will soon find out that preserving it often requires more than simply a desire to do so. [Read more…]

Giving brings great joy, fulfillment

Rande Richardson

While standing in the grocery check-out line recently, I noticed a Time magazine cover titled “100 People Who Changed the World.” It’s no surprise that the cover featured icons like Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Steve Jobs. If our goal was not to sell magazines, but rather to compile a comprehensive list of “100 People Who Changed Northern New York,” we would have volumes of magazines.

We’re fully aware that the many ways nonprofit organizations enhance our community’s quality of life are only possible because of their leaders, staff members, volunteers and donors. While we could start the list with individuals who have been recognized time and again, my heart focuses on the everyday heroes who perform random acts of kindness, often without fanfare or formal recognition. These individuals change our community for the better in countless ways. Their spirit weaves through north country life. It is the glue that connects the best in human beings. [Read more…]

Seize smart opportunities to share

Do you remember one of life’s early lessons? Most of our parents instilled the importance and responsibility of sharing. Airbnb, Lyft, Vayable, TaskRabbit, Exec, RelayRides and SnapGoods took that lesson seriously. They are a sampling of at least 100 companies that have figured out that sharing can be good business. Forbes magazine recently estimated that the “share economy” will see revenues surpassing $3.5 billion this year. Entrepreneurs have found ways to share everything from homes, cars, tools, sporting goods, strollers, errands and office chores using “online clearinghouses” to capitalize on the unused capacity of things they already have.

What does this have to do with nonprofits? Everything. This trend in sharing wouldn’t be on the cover of Forbes if there wasn’t inherent value embedded for anyone trying to do more with less. We often wait to see business validate both the need and value of something before the “other” sectors see how that the only “losers” are those that fail to recognize the need to adapt to change.

[Read more…]

Now is best time to plan for future

What if someone said to you, “Here’s $20,000 of someone else’s money. Give it away and do it well.” Sounds like fun, right? Certainly giving away money can be fun, but such a privilege can also be a burdensome responsibility balancing unlimited needs with limited resources. [Read more…]