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.

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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…]

Sieze the chance for a full glass

Enacted in 1917, the charitable deduction was one of the first tax deductions allowed under law, advanced largely to counter higher taxes imposed during World War I and to encourage private support of charitable efforts at home. When talk of establishing a standard deduction arose during World War II, there was concern among nonprofits, including churches, that it would adversely affect donations. A similar scenario occurred during tax reform legislation in the 1980s. During the months and weeks leading up to the recent “fiscal cliff” discussions, there was much conversation and hand-wringing among nonprofit advocacy groups regarding a potential end to the charitable deduction. [Read more…]

Agencies take steps to plan future

This fall, a consortium of local organizations took the first tangible step to lead the way to finally walk the walk to make good on the talk. After years of mulling the changing nonprofit sector sustainability landscape, Jefferson Rehabilitation Center, Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addiction, North Country Children’s Clinic, Watertown Family YMCA, Transitional Living Services of Northern New York, Volunteer Transportation Center and Children’s Home of Jefferson County signed a letter of agreement to participate in a seven-agency operational needs assessment. Under the leadership of Jefferson Rehabilitation Center Executive Director Howard Ganter, the work already has begun.

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We must listen effectively to thrive

Have you ever been in a conversation or at a meeting where you were so focused what you were going to say or what your response would be that you weren’t really listening to those on the other end of the dialogue? I have. There is danger in dialogues becoming monologues.

[Read more…]