White House Forum Addresses Nonprofit Leadership Issues: Anything New Here?

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November 15, 2011; Source: Nonprofit AlternativesBlogger Heather Carpenter reported on the White House Forum on Nonprofit Leadership by monitoring the content of the participants’ social media postings, and concluded, “What’s being said at the Forum is nothing new, we’ve heard it many times by many different speakers at many different conferences, and in many different reports.” NPQ also took a peek at the tweets and postings, and we had the same feeling. Carpenter reprinted tweets such as these to make her point:

  • “It’s not just about the ED, it’s about every single leader in your organization.” John Ryan at Center for Creative Leadership #nplead
  • “If we’re not developing leaders FROM w/in communities, I fear that we will not actually solve pressing problems.” John Rice #nplead
  • “Disconnect b/w intent of #nonprofit sector & practice real, esp around racial and gender diversity.” Cheryl Dorsey @echoinggreen #nplead
  • “Because we have under-invested in nonprofit talent we are not benefiting from top talent.” Melody Barnes #NPLead
  • “How do we convince the public that human service infrastructure is worth investing in for our long-term sustainability?” Spriggs #NPLead
  • “We need to add human capital when talking ab jobs infrastructure. Its more than physical capital, we need training & skills.” Spriggs #NPLead

In NPQ’s real-time monitoring, we found other, similar postings:

  • “It’s up to you to make management training a critical priority in the nonprofit sector.” Schick of AmEx talks import of development #NPLead
  • “There is no clear pathway into nonprofit jobs. It’s not professionalized like other industries.” Stark @AECFNews #NPLead
  • “Having passion and desire is not enough. [Nonprofit leaders] have to know how to run a business and compete for talent.” @AECFNewsStark #NPLead
  • “Yes. This.” RT @PaulSchmitz1: Melody Barnes: nonprofits vital to economy 779B GDP impact and 13 m jobs #Nplead
  • “Every discussion I am in on NP leadership development comes down to investing in capacity building INVEST ALREADY NP SECTOR!” #NPLead
  • “A leader can’t just be in a leadership space, they must fully occupy that space.” (Overheard in diversity breakout group.) #NPLead
  • “We need a strategy for off ramping ‘fading,’ ‘sunset’ and ‘last generation’ leaders.” @MEnista@BenDuda #NPlead

Carpenter observed that “people are excited and acting like this is new information. I have come to the conclusion it doesn’t matter what is being said in the sector but who is saying it.” Essentially, because people from the White House (Valerie Jarrett, Melody Barnes, the Department of Labor’s Bill Spriggs, etc.) are talking about nonprofit talent and leadership, that will capture the attention of funders and the public. It’s good to have White House people talking about the importance of nonprofit leadership, but what White House action will ensue?—Rick Cohen

  • Lisa

    I attended this event, and agree that there wasn’t much new discussed. It was good to gather in an attempt to move the issue forward and come up with goals to move toward, and I will be interested to see how that happens.

    One thing I found worrisome was the underrepresentation of nonprofit service providers at the event- it felt like foundations/consultants/”sector experts” were talking about issues so critical to the nonprofit world without actually focusing on talking WITH organizations and those who would be involved in implementing change at the community level. It came across in a “father knows best” kind of way (i.e. how would you know how things happen in this sector when you only work with one organization). No one has all the answers, and the sooner we realize we all have to work together and the voice of service providers is essential in these conversations, the better chance we have of succeeding.

  • Nelson Layag

    I tend to agree Lisa. The one positive to Rick’s point of “who’s saying it” is that it would bring attention and money to this issue. Hopefully the “folks in the room” would be smart enough to identify the bright spots in leadership development projects and programs that have been both successful and continuing to evolve and improve through years of implementation and learning. Time to invest in and leverage that goldmine of information.

  • Michael Wyland

    I read the six-page PowerPoint and was, frankly, confused as much as informed. I’ve worked for a US Congressman, two Cabinet departments in DC, and consulted to nonprofits for more than 20 years, so I’ve seen a lot of jargon (and even created some 🙂 ) This left me scratching my head.

    The key next step appears to be a leadership initiative of Independent Sector which can be reviewed at the following web address:

    There isn’t a lot of information, but there will be conference calls in December and, apparently, a web forum that is operating now.