Being NOT Something

I’ve always taken a little offense to the term “not-for-profit”.  I like aspirational and empowering terms and being described as NOT something implies being less than or second rate. Maybe it’s somehow related to some people having lower expectations of these organizations (but that’s a whole other discussion).  I’ve toyed with terms like the “independent sector” or the “third sector” but they seem a bit awkward and take too much time to explain their meaning. Last week a friend gave me a new term that I really like.  His point is that some corporations are “For Profit” while others forego the profit to be “For Impact”.  I understand that we can’t easily change the Ohio Revised Code or IRS regulations so we’re going to be stuck with tax-exempt not-for-profit for a long time.  But I feel a certain comfort and challenge in working for an organization that is for impact.


Looking forward to 2011

We don’t have a crystal ball at the Community Foundation, but we can certainly anticipate some of the themes that might well consume our time, talents, energy and probably some of our dollars in the coming year.  If I had to guess, here is my short list of things I think we’ll be recapping next December.

Business as usual in an unusual world.  The impact of the most recent economic downturn will continue to increase needs and diminish resources to address those needs for some time.  We’ll continue to maintain consistency of our core business (promoting community philanthropy and strategic grantmaking) while we keep our eyes open for opportunities and challenges. 

Putting some real effort behind collaboration.  We’re just now beginning to see earnest interest in meaningful collaboration in our public sector. I believe we will see more in the coming months and years, particularly if we can orchestrate some early successes.  Collaboration may be costly to plan and implement but is can save tremendous tax dollars if done well.  If we’re to build initiatives worthy of public support and then help build public sanction for “doing things different”, community guidance, engagement and monitoring is critical.  Foundations will have to be part of the process.

I’m hopeful our work with the public sector will be matched by opportunities in the nonprofit sector as well, specifically in education, healthcare and the capacity and leadership of our nonprofit organizations.

Reinventing community leadership.  We aren’t in Kansas anymore.  For years we’ve mouthed the words and said things are changing, but our community, region and nation are deep into that change.  Many of our old rules have been replaced by new rules and in some cases rules haven’t even been defined.  Our exploration of our role in community leadership couldn’t have been better timed, as I believe we are in a community leadership crisis or opportunity and the community foundation is in a pivotal position to help our community and region help decide how we will make decisions and solve problems.

Business Like, Mission Focused, Values Driven

Our Board of Directors reaffirmed mission and core values at their 2010 Board Retreat on August 20th and 21st.  In a constantly changing world, its our understanding of our business model, our clear mission and our values and beliefs that allow us to take advantage of opportunities and face challenges that will define the Community Foundation of Lorain County of the future. 

 We Connect People Who Care with Causes That Matter

we do this by:
Turning donors charitable dreams into permanent legacies
Investing in our community through strategic grantmaking
Leading our community to a better future
We believe:
  • integrity is our greatest asset and value trust earned with fiscal responsibility, ethical stewardship and transparency
  • access to the CFLC should be fair, inclusive and equitable
  • in purposeful and collaborative community leadership
  • the perpetuity of our efforts are linked to sustainable practices
  • strategy, creativity, and adaptability are keys to thriving in a constantly changing world

The Heros are still here

The news is abuzz today with the news that LaBron James is leaving Cleveland for Miami. It will certainly be a loss to the Cavs and to our Region, but its ironic that my latest edition of Inside Business arrive in the mail today. The pages are literally filled with business innovation, growth and excitement. Intermediaries like the Lorain County Growth Partnership and the Youngstown Business Incubator are igniting a spark in this former rustbelt region. Profiles of the twelve female winners of the 2010 Athena Awards, the NEOSA Best of Tech Awards, and the 2010 Team NEO Economic Development Plus Awards are reason describe the sustainable assets of this larger community we call home. I cheered for LaBron and am sorry he chose to leave, but the real Herod are still hard at work making NE Ohio a better place.

Here comes the auditors

We’ll have guests in the office next Monday when our annual audit begins.  Actually, it began months ago, but  as of the last few minutes our financial staff is finally finished preparing the first round of reports, lists, schedules for our visitors.  I frankly look forward to having a fresh set of eyes on our work. 

Annual audits are required by National Standards for US Community Foundations for all but the smallest of foundations.  Audits are included in virtually every set of nonprofit standards and best practices I’ve seen.  As a public charity, I believe we have a responsibility to validate the trust we as of our donors, grantees and community.  Transparency is critical, and like any good nonprofit, we do our best to display our practices and decisions for our stakeholders.  But there is nothing quite like a clean audit as a demonstration of good accounting and illuminate financial sustainability.

Yea I am kind of looking forward to our annual checkup.  Of course it makes it a lot easier being part of a well oiled machine like the Community Foundation and having such a strong and capable staff.

Patience and Persistence

The Community Foundation purchased a new office building and many of our friends have been asking –when? Our original move in date of June has became July, then August and now probably closer to September. This isn’t surprising to any of you who have built a house or engaged in serious remodeling. We’re making good progress, but this takes time if you want to do it right. Bingo!

We’ve all seen the consequences of rushing something, whether it’s having to scrape dried paint off a window because we didn’t want to take the time to tape, eating an unappetizing meal because instructions were ignored, or the implications of hastily drafted legislation like the nonprofit provisions of the Pension Protection Act of 2006. Sometimes we just have to take things at their natural pace.

I’ve often remarked that the most important feature of a community foundation (and foundations in general) is their ability to be patient and persistent. Certain things take time and we’re seeing a great example with the Fund for our Economic Future. The pace of activities within the Fund is anything but slow, but it’s going to take a long time to change a culture as engrained as ours in NE Ohio. We have to remember the same with our grantees. Sometimes we expect impact too quickly, forgetting that a decision to fund doesn’t automatically result in 100% productivity the moment they get our check.

I’d love to be in my new office tomorrow, but that can’t be rushed. I’ll have to be satisfied with progress and milestones like our new signage that should be done by the end of May. And whe we’re settled, I’m confident that we’ll be glad that we did things right.

Uncluttered Communication

The Community Foundation of Lorain County is constantly assessing the viability of print material, we’re now on Facebook, our staff are Linked In, we have one Board member who tweets on philanthropy and one who doesn’t use email at all.  In a world where communication is critical, we certainly live in an interesting time of extremes.  Some say that technology is driving the evolution of communication but I think it is a desire for relevant, uncluttered, personal relationships.

Long ago every snail mail we received was personal, intentional and usually relevant.  Then came the junk and lots of it.  Phone calls were the preferred vehicle until those pesky dinner-time surveys and offers for credit cards.  And now email is currently on the chopping block for many (particularly the younger crowd) as SPAM explodes and senders find ways around Junk Filters.  I have no doubt as advertising expertise cracks new barriors, IM’ing, Facebook messaging and Texting will be replaced my a newer and kinder way of connecting with those we want to connect with.  

So how can the Community Foundation of 2010 be transparent and effectively communicate with our many stakeholders?  Why don’t you call me or tweet me with the answer.