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Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.
Arizona Campaign Director
In April, I left the helm of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, after ten years of building it into a force for strength and progress in serving the state’s nonprofit community. It was not easy to leave the Alliance, because I still consider the position of CEO of the Alliance to be one of the best anybody could have. To work every day with and for some of the most inspiring and passionate people dedicated to building a stronger Arizona was a dream come true. Only the opportunity I am now pursuing at Open Primaries to reform our political system could draw me away, because I know that nonprofits need a stronger partner in government in order to succeed.
So, as I made my transition – keep in mind that I am still working a nonprofit, just a c4 instead of a c3 – the moment gave me reason to reflect upon the 10 years of experience I had at the Alliance and with colleagues across the country through the National Council of Nonprofits. I first tried to remember what it was like in 2005. The economy was booming, and nonprofits were talking about creative ways to sustain themselves through social enterprise. Meanwhile, we were concerned about the huge leadership transition coming, as baby boomers, in the top positions at so many nonprofits, were heading into retirement years. And there was much talk about nonprofits running themselves more like businesses.
Wow, ten years passed, and here we are in 2015: social enterprise is the rage, the boomer retirement wave is a concern, and people are talking about nonprofits operating like businesses. Really?
But of course a once-in-a-century recession intervened, and the context of our work seems so different today. The stakes seem higher. The peril facing so many nonprofits is much greater today. The recession never ended for nonprofits.
So it feels like we are in a period when nonprofits must somehow re-invent themselves to survive. And the creativity and new ideas needed to pursue that re-invention mean that we should not be afraid to think out of the box. We should not be afraid to shed old paradigms that are no longer relevant.
I agree with all of that. But upon reflection about these issues, I also wish to issue some cautions, some consideration to keep in mind as you adapt to changes in this dynamic and sometimes volatile environment. In particular, I hope the leaders of today and tomorrow in our nonprofit community heed these three concerns:
It was truly an honor to lead the Alliance. Those ten years will always be a highlight of my life. And I am proud to continue serving the community, and the entire state, through a new nonprofit. I am not gone. I am still fighting for our communities. And I will never cease being the nonprofits’ loudest fan, their biggest champion. And with an eye on the issues I raised in this reflection, I am confident that they will continue to make Arizona and our nation stronger as we face the challenges of the 21st century.