With Donor Confidence Growing, Nonprofits Prepare for 2011

By Beacon Staff

Representatives from a range of nonprofit organizations, including some of the most prominent in the Flathead, met last week to review the past year and discuss the challenges facing their industry in 2011.

The Jan. 13 meeting was organized by the Flathead Nonprofit Development Partnership and held at the Museum at Central School in Kalispell.

The representatives – both staff and board members – were asked by meeting facilitator Ed Myers to identify skills they should strive to acquire to make their organizations more efficient.

Jennifer DeMonte of the Youth Image Project, a startup group that provides photography training for at-risk teens, offered one option.

“I just need to become superhuman,” DeMonte said.

Short of developing superhuman abilities, the nonprofit leaders hit on a variety of possible answers to the everyday questions that nonprofits encounter in today’s economic climate. They generally agreed that 2010 was an improvement for fundraising and donor confidence from the previous two years, but they acknowledged enduring economic uncertainty in their industry.

Myers, who asked the attendees to think in terms of both the individual and the organization, began the meeting by posing a question to the crowded room.

“What do I need to know for this next year?” Myers said. “How do I approach 2011?

Throughout the hour-and-half meeting, several themes emerged, including the importance of creative management during tough times and a focus on strategic planning. Other discussion points were possible changes coming down from the Legislature, marketing strategies, staffing difficulties, fundraising and the ever-present need for nonprofits to adapt.

Lex Blood, one of the Nonprofit Development Partnership’s original founders in 2003, reminded his colleagues to acknowledge their organizations’ internal challenges, as well as the external factors that may affect them. He said it’s vital to take a “deep strategic look” and then follow up with action. Blood is the executive director of The Sustainability Fund.

“It’s how you accomplish the mission, not just re-think the mission,” Blood said.

Ruth Ackroyd of the Flathead Community Foundation stressed the importance of strong leadership.

“I think you often have a group of caring volunteers but nobody wants to take on leadership,” she said.

The nonprofit leaders also emphasized time management, even if individual to-do lists have grown in the face of reduced staff and resources. Staff training and delegation are directly tied to time management – it’s crucial that an executive director can take time off and still trust that the organization will function well. Myers pointed out that time management is a big part of stress management.

The meeting served as a brainstorming session as well as a networking opportunity. Among the groups represented were the Tamarack Grief Resource Center, Flathead Job Service, Conrad Mansion Museum, Flathead Youth Home, Glacier Institute, Flathead CARE, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Samaritan House, Citizens for a Better Flathead, Nurturing Center, Flathead Land Trust and more.

Program director Ned Cooney and administrative coordinator Chany Ockert represented the Nonprofit Development Partnership, which, according to its mission statement, “is dedicated to sustaining and enhancing the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations through education and capacity-building opportunities in the Flathead region.”

Midway through the meeting, Myers asked the attendees to gauge how they felt upon completing 2010 and going into 2011. DeMonte, reflecting on the busy year of a startup company, answered succinctly.

“Exhausted, but energized.”

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