Part one of a two-part series
Who do nonprofits turn to when they need help? The answer: regional and state nonprofit associations. Here’s a look behind the scenes with Dr. Kevin Dean, executive director of one such association, Momentum Nonprofit Partners. Supporting more than 900 nonprofits in Memphis and the Mid-South, MNP provides training and technical assistance, sector research, public policy support, and networking opportunities. “Our work changes every day,” shared Dean. “One moment we might be fighting a bill in the state legislature that negatively impacts nonprofits, and the next we might be sitting in a coffee shop providing counsel to an executive director with a complicated human resources issue. We want to meet nonprofits where they are and make sure they have what they need. Our goal is to create a sector that has an equal seat at the table and has leaders who are armed with the skills they need to effectively run a high-impact nonprofit.”
We asked Dean about the challenges facing nonprofits and his response was far-ranging. “Nonprofits are being hit from all sides at the moment, and it’s not a fun time to be a leader. We are all still dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic. Fundraising seems like a moving target more than ever. Donor engagement was difficult through the pandemic, but now donors are nervous about an impending recession. The Great Resignation has created workforce shortages all over America, and it isn’t just your local restaurant or grocery store suffering shortages. Nonprofits have been hit hard, too. Burnout is also very real, and many leaders are struggling to keep their staff afloat—and keep themselves above water, too. With the world seemingly changing daily, it’s no wonder burnout is happening everywhere. This does, however, provide a great opportunity for organizations to rethink their work, benefits packages, organizational culture, and strategic plans. Sometimes we need a ‘reboot.’ This is a great time to rethink everything with a fresh pair of post-COVID eyes.”
In terms of rethinking, we also wanted to know how MNP brings value to the community as a convener and technical assistance provider. Dean shared two examples. “We help nonprofits be better. Nonprofit administration is naturally a messy gig. While there are many best practices to draw from, there’s no prescriptive way to run a nonprofit organization. It’s complex and nuanced, and nonprofits need support in finding the best ways to manage their organizations. We share the newest national data and best practices so local nonprofits can benefit from what’s working in other areas.” His second example is about advocacy. Dean sees MNP as a unified voice for the nonprofit sector. “We were able to advocate for the Community CARES program, which provided $150 million in CARES Act funds to nonprofits. We were also able to provide valuable research about compensation in our area that helped leaders pay their staff more equitably…and some of those leaders got raises, too. Without the work we do, it would be very difficult for the sector to have a voice and advocate for itself.”
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