Plotting a Course for 2017

2016 was a year of flipping the script and changing up the status quo. Come tomorrow, it is time to push through our anxiety about what may lie ahead and plot a course to best navigate the unknown terrain of 2017.

But where to start? Some thoughts…

Where will the road take you in 2017?

In December, I always look forward to Lucy Bernholtz’s data and philanthropy forecast for the upcoming year and the insights in Blueprint 2017 are as thought-provoking as those of its predecessors. It is available for download at the Foundation Center’s Grant Craft website.

Diversification of revenue is more important than ever, especially among donors as well as sources.

Show the impact of the work you do – the very change your program facilitates at both the client and community levels. It seems to be in fashion to downplay all measurement because quantifying impact can be challenging, what with small samples and scattered cohorts and bias (oh my!). Yes, it is. But demonstrating how a program meets expected and desired goals – the outcomes – is not a clinical trial, it is just good practice. As is using those data to inform and improve services.

In Pennsylvania, as this fiscal year’s budget shortfall grows, all signs point to a doozy of a 2017-18 negotiation process. Structural changes to the current human services system are also on the table, which may signal new opportunities for nonprofits. How can you best advocate for the sector and your organization?

Moving purposefully into the unknown may be less intimidating for a nonprofit when there is a verbal AND a financial commitment to cultivate leadership within the ranks.

On the topic of developing leaders, this is a perfect time to engage in a some formative assessment of a more personal nature. As an established or up-and-coming nonprofit leader, how do will you look back on 2016 and plan for 2017?

  • Set aside some time to conduct your own career-centered end of year review.
  • Use/create a rubric to determine where you are now and what you should focus on, add, or set aside in 2017. Rubrics consist of a descriptive set of items or elements and a related performance scale. List your goals or expectations for 2016, then rate each one on a numerical scale where each point is defined along a continuum of progress, for example, 0 = “No progress made” while 4 = “Achieved 100%.” Add as much or as little detail to each rating point as needed to accurately capture the situation.
  • Last January, I worked with Emily Marco on a year-in-review that included a look back at professional and personal events and milestones of 2015 and planning for 2016. She also helped me clarify my goals and identify “action steps” to begin working toward them immediately. Emily is a visual problem solver who excels at helping people organize their thoughts and build a plan of action to achieve their goals. If you are interested in exploring a new way to digest the old and plan for the new you can learn more about her new online learning experience Relaunch 2017 or contact her for a goal setting session at



Note:  This post is not sponsored.  I do not receive any compensation or services for mentions or links included in the post.

Report: Evidence of Long Term Economic Impact of the Nonprofit Sector

There has been much focus the past few years on the impact of the economy on philanthropy and nonprofits, but relatively little on the overall impact that nonprofits have on the economy (save some state/local level analysis).  But a recent look at nonprofit operations and economics has concluded that private grantmaking has a greater impact than previously assumed – so says new research from The Philanthropic Collaborative.

The report, Economic Impacts of 2010 Foundation Grantmaking on the U.S. Economy takes a closer look at the $38 billion in foundation grants dispersed throughout the United States in 2010. The authors found positive impacts of the funding at the immediate and short term levels, specifically in wages and jobs, revenue and Gross Domestic Product  (GDP) growth. In the midst of the recent recession the foundation monies resulted in the immediate creation of approximately half a million jobs. More notable than that however, was that the study identified long term impacts,  including creating  partnerships between organizations to encourage local entrepreneurship and grow the presence of for-profit businesses over time. The authors conclude that nonprofit activity does have long-term economic impact, reflected in both the GDP and the country’s employment rate.

The complete report, including eight community-level case studies of diverse initiatives and programs, is available at  The Philanthropic Collaborative’s website.




Arts and Culture and Economic Growth in Pennsylvania

While the state of the economy is center stage this election season, there has been little discussion of the importance of nonprofits, particularly those in the arts sector, in job creation and economic growth. A new study, Arts & Economic Prosperity IV: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and Their Audiences in the State of Pennsylvania, conducted by Americans for the Arts demonstrates the clear correlation between support of  the arts and employment and revenue generation in the Commonwealth.

According to the report, in 2010, Pennsylvania had $2,545,382,269 in total expenditures between art and culture organizations and their patrons. This spending supported more than 81,000 full-time jobs and sent over $201 million in revenue to the state government.

In Allegheny County, 2010 arts and culture industry expenditures totaled $685,602,764, with event attendees spending an average of $21.44 per person, not including the cost of event admission. As would be expected, people living outside of Allegheny County spent more on meals, gifts or souvenirs and lodging.  The data indicate that this patronage of cultural events and activities in and around the city of Pittsburgh supports over 20,500 full-time jobs and generates $31,448,000 in revenue to the local government.

Read the complete report or the regional summaries at the Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania webpage (all are available for download). Then make plans for dinner and a show!

Nonprofits – Revenue is not a Dirty Word

Do you know that your 501c3 nonprofit is eligible to make revenue through the sale of services or items? Scouts have popcorn and cookies, pins or flexible bracelets in a rainbow of cause colors are sold to raise funds and a very famous Towel supports a local nonprofit organization. These goodies are tasty and fun – and in the case of the towel, exceptionally lucrative – but they are not the only avenues to income. A nonprofit with savvy leadership can monetize their unique assets related to service offerings such as original training curricula or publications on a niche topic area.

The article The Social Entrepreneurship Spectrum: Nonprofits With Earned Income by Issie Lapowsky in the May 2011 issue of Inc. magazine, provides a helpful introduction to earned revenue models including the pros and cons, information on common tax issues and mini-case studies. Earned income endeavors do not guarantee a successful return, but with a quality product and a dedicated team, your nonprofit may find itself in the business of selling as well as serving.