What is the role of nonprofits in changing times?
By Che D. Watkins, President and CEO, The Center for Working Families
I recently had the pleasure of spending four days with nonprofit leaders and emerging leaders from across the country as a result of being awarded the Bank of America Neighborhood Builders Award. While the unrestricted funds received were catalytic to our growth, the embedded leadership training proved just as valuable. This past week in Charlotte we had a chance to hear from a jambalaya of thought leaders, industry titans, change agents and visionaries, leading to robust discussions about the role of nonprofits today.
As a sector, nonprofits used to focus solely on providing charity and services to community that neither the private sector nor the government sector could perform. However, the landscape has changed and now nonprofits are focused on providing solutions versus providing hope. This quote by Nell Edgington from Social Velocity sums this up perfectly:
“The charity mindset assumes that a nonprofit starts from the position of need, inadequacy, and burden, rather than a position of opportunity, strength, and effectiveness.”
Every single day we have to establish a vision, be strategic, meet goals and implement all of that in a continuously changing environment. Our role is to figure out how to do things differently than the private and public sectors. I think the good thing is that we have the opportunity to be brutally honest about the challenges and move faster, together, towards the solution.
In order to do that, integrated partnership between the private and public sectors is crucial, because we simply cannot solve these issues on our own. Our charge is to define the gaps, articulate them across audiences and ensure that our outcomes are big enough to move the needle towards closing. We also need to help philanthropy understand nonprofits’ transition from patron to partner, and help figure out how they will determine progress and success in the future.
If we look at the issues being discussed in the current mayoral election – wage and income inequality, affordable housing, growth without displacement, access to livable wage jobs for all, education – they are large, complicated issues. The only way that they can be solved is if we work together, open ourselves up to innovative solutions and adjust our mindsets. The old way just won’t cut it any longer.