Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Interstate nonprofit capacity lessons

Late yesterday afternoon, my Twitter feed brought an unexpected gift: a link to a report on nonprofit capacity building needs in Washington state, produced by The Giving Practice and shared by Whatcom Counts, an amazing resource (directed by an old Laramie friend Liz Jennings, familiar to many in our local nonprofit community).

While the report itself (An Assessment of Capacity Building in Washington State, available for download here) obviously describes the needs of another western state, the take-home message should resonate for both our local nonprofit community and Wyoming's nonprofit sector as well. The authors' "eight essential elements of a resilient nonprofit ecosystem" stopped me in my tracks as I read them, immediately connecting to what I both know and believe to be true about our own nonprofit environment.

You'll find them listed on page 6 of the PDF file (published page 2, in the executive summary), but let me pull out the description for you:
  1. "An ongoing source of nonprofit board and management basics or "Nonprofit 101"...
  2. "The availability of in-depth organizational assistance...
  3. "Ongoing ways to surface, educate and sustain leadership...
  4. "Trusted information and referral resources for 'just-in-time' needs...
  5. "A community infrastructure that supports volunteerism...
  6. "The capacity to use technology in pursuit of mission...
  7. "Organizing and advocacy capacity...
  8. "A healthy funding and fundraising climate..."
While those elements emerged from research somewhere else, they should ring true to anyone working in the sector - especially to those of us in Wyoming and, specifically, Albany County.

We have areas of local strength and distinct areas of local need. It is my hope that the nonprofit boards initiative that I am developing with a group of colleagues working in the sector will play a lead role in addressing some of these capacity needs, especially numbers 1 and 3 on the list. My individual passions also lie in supporting number 6, as I've seen and participated in incredibly powerful examples of organizing and learning via social media.

As you read that list, what arises for you as most critical to the needs of our local nonprofit community? To your specific organization? What is your initial response to the list itself? If we were to conduct a similar study in Wyoming, or in Albany County, would we find the same results? I am interested in your reactions, via a comment to this post, and in sparking a conversation about the capacity needs of our own nonprofit environment.

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