For sure, predicting the future is a risky business. Still, during the past year I wrote a number of articles to predict what could be on the horizon. Only time will tell if the trends we suggest – like the funding crisis, crash of the herd, or structural changes – are real or not. Or if the hopeful visions about the impact of technology or the new insights into human behavior described in last month's newsletter actually revolutionize how we solve problems. But today I will be more concrete and provide a more predictable future for 2013. Unlike our prior “guesses,” you should be able to bank on these. Click here to read more.
I feel the need to respond to a Compass piece in this morning’s Anchorage Daily News in which the writer expressed concern about what she considers little benefit for funds invested.
I’m not sure what organizations the writer worked in, but having worked with more nonprofits than maybe anyone in Alaska I have had a much different experience. Most nonprofits are very focused and squeeze more from every dime they receive than many for-profit corporations or government agencies.
In addition, the people who work in the sector often deal with people, or clients, with "drama" in their lives. But nonprofit employees by far are generous and caring for their community and their coworkers.
I will not deny the writer's perceptions because they must be real to her, but maybe she needs to walk with us for a while to see that the majority of Alaska's nonprofits are on the same page, working miracles with often limited resources.
October 31, 2012 – Kodiak
Kodiak's seniors are not too old to celebrate Halloween! Over half the seniors at lunch today were in costume. I came as the scariest character, as an aging Baby Boomer. My generation is so afraid of growing old, but reality is catching up to us. I am learning to embrace my "inner elder.”
Today's smidgen of insight is that as we are witnessing the results of another natural disaster and the dependence we all have on a government and nonprofit response, that we remind elected officials not to dismantle the safety net our nation depends upon.
The generations in this picture are the Americans that survived the last economic meltdown. They created these safety nets and are encouraging us Boomers to vote next week and make sure we do what we can to maintain the caring nature of our country.
Chief Shake's House, Wrangell, Alaska – Sept. 5, 2012
Today I am in the green and beautiful southeast Alaska community of Wrangell. A few years ago I spent many days here working with the community to help them complete a new conference center and museum, the Nolan Center.
Now another group, representatives of its first inhabitants (the tribe), are nearing completion of another dream, the renovation of their most important structures, Chief Shake's House. And while this is cause for celebration the same group is also closing in on the starting date for another big project, a carving shed, where a new generation of carvers, like the ones who used to live on this island and create magnificent totems, are identified, developed and nurtured.
The smidgen of insight today is that a few dedicated people can build the sense of community for all by dreaming big and following through. The completion of such large visions requires communities to work together. While a few people can build momentum with a great vision, it takes the cooperation of a community to complete big projects.
When you get a chance, stop by this unique Alaskan community and marvel at their realized dreams.
Alaska Native Heritage Center – August 28
Today I am on the 16th annual Rasmuson Foundation grant maker tour. Since 1996 the foundation has invited the most significant foundations in America to learn about Alaska. They visit nonprofits in Anchorage and Sitka, but also get to see life in the YK Delta and the North Slope.
This year funders from Murdock Trust, Cargill, Rockefeller Brothers, Knight, Robert Wood Johnson, Moore, Ferguson and a guest from consultant TCC Group spent a week in Alaska.
The smidgen of insight today is the amount of money provided by the Rasmuson Foundation is magnified by the capital of goodwill they create through such efforts.
Alliance for Nonprofit Management Conference, Grand Rapids, Michigan – August 10, 2012
Today is day two of the Alliance conference. I was recently asked to serve on the Alliance board whose mission is to improve the capacity of professionals involved in building the capacity of the nonprofit sector.
There have been good sessions with some ideas I will bring home for Foraker. As important, I have been able to re-connect with Terry Horton, former Foraker staff member who now serves as a consultant with the Johnson Center at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids.
Today's smidgen of insight is that all organizations are struggling with their business model and with evaluation. The Alliance is comprised of many of the most respected thought leaders in the sector, yet they, too, struggle with these issues for their association.
So don't despair – persevere. If you have not read the latest newsletter article on evaluation, please do. After speaking to the thought leaders here that read it, they told me that it generated much conversation in their circles.
August 7, 2012 -- Salt Lake City, Utah.
Today I was in Salt Lake, actually woke up in Park City to work with the Utah Hospital Association. Two Alaskans – Ed Lamb, former CEO at Alaska Regional and now running a health system in Utah, and Rod Betit, former CEO of the Alaska Hospital and Nursing Home Association, now the interim exec at the Utah association – asked for a little “Forakering” for the board here.
The smidgen of insight is that all nonprofit sub-sectors are preparing for change and that's a good thing because change is imminent. The challenge is that it is hard to predict what to do with all things so uncertain.
It reminded me to remind you that our efforts to help the sector know that structures in the new reality are different from the ones Baby Boomers are comfortable with. So to my generation, "go with the flow."
We will survive.
Portland, OR – August 3, 2012
Last week Andrew Cutting, Mike Walsh, Laurie Wolf, and I met with the cohort from Murdock Charitable Trust's Capacity Builders Initiative in "Portlandia!"
The weather was beautiful so it was hard for us to stay inside and work, but we did. We spent the first day with Jared Raynor from TCC Group on evaluation, today on common interests.
This initiative has been ongoing for six years. When we started we did not know each other and our work seemed very different. Today we are a team committed to improving our collective impact.
Today's smidgen of insight is that evaluation is hard, even with desire and funding. But it is important. That leads to our August newsletter article on measuring our impact. If you want to know more, you can read the article here.
All of us at The Foraker Group are deeply saddened by the passing of Mary Louise Rasmuson. Her love for Alaska and all of us who live here was steadfast. Her passion never dimmed for helping Alaskans -- through her leadership on community issues, her philanthropy, and her volunteer service. Foraker was born of this passion. We are grateful for her inspiration, guidance, and support. We will miss her.
Our sympathy goes to the Rasmuson family and everyone at the Rasmuson Foundation. May you be comforted by your memories of a true humanitarian and the legacy of her generosity which is around us every day.
Please visit the Rasmuson Foundation website for a tribute to Mrs. Rasmuson.
The Alaska Association of School Board Officials (ALASBO) summer session, Homer, Alaska
July 28, 2012
On one of the sunniest days of 2012, I was with the ALASBO board, inside, in one of Alaska's nicest places to be outside, Homer. This happened on a day – truth be said – that I would have rather been enjoying our brief summer with family and friends in the sun. That is one of the down sides of our job at Foraker.
I, along with many of our staff, meet with boards when they want to meet, often weekends. But all negatives have some positives like my experience today.
I met with an emerging nonprofit leadership group, a nonprofit we can use as a positive model. ALASBO supports people who work on the business side of Alaskan school districts. It's been around a while but through the good work of their board, has built their capacity to serve their members and in turn, build their reputation as a player in the association world.
A few of the members of this board had attended other Foraker sessions but this was the first time as a group they had a more complete presentation on the principles we advocate.
So my smidgen of insight today is that while we know that many of our long-term Partners have become fluent in "Forakereze,” other organizations, with the right support from national affiliations or their own desire to learn, seem to be adopting many of the basics we promote.
ALASBO had never heard the Foraker sustainability model, but they practiced it. They had never been through our class on High Performing Boards, but they are one.
So kudos to ALASBO. They are a strong nonprofit association. They know who they are and where they are going, (FOCUS), they have a good board and recently added a great staff leader (part-time) do have the Right People, and they included the need for strategic Partnerships before they even had heard of Foraker. And as business managers they understood their need for Unrestricted Cash.
It's good to see the relevance of our model regardless of how it was adopted.