A new year offers an opportunity to set new goals. In that spirit, The Chronicle invited a diverse group of leaders and thinkers to share their 2012 resolutions for the nonprofit world.
A sampling of their responses is below. And to keep the conversation going, please feel free to share your own nonprofit resolutions by posting a comment at the bottom of this page.
Great people’s movements are demanding new social contracts all over the world. The Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, and ongoing calls for social justice have inspired millions, yet U.S. philanthropy has remained largely sidelined and silent. We, in the foundation sector, resolve to stop being as irrelevant as we have been for so long. Because history will not absolve us, we commit to taking a hard look at the root causes of ineffectiveness and addressing our myriad shortcomings as a sector.
— Albert Ruesga, president, Greater New Orleans Foundation
The nonprofit and enterprise worlds are blending. Therefore, turn your thinking upside down and begin to think as though you operate in the competitive market because, increasingly, you do. Think first about what people want and what they expect, and only second about what you want to provide them. Be willing to turn on a dime programmatically and financially because if you do not, someone else will.
— Susan Raymond, executive vice president of the consulting company Changing Our World
May 2012 be a year of courage for philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. We face an extraordinary assault on programs serving the most vulnerable in our society, voting rights we long took for granted, and harsh anti-immigrant policies that undermine our values. Now is the time for our sector to find its voice and support advocacy, organizing, and civic engagement.
— Deepak Bhargava, executive director, Center for Community Change
Explicitly fund overhead—we all have it and we all need it. And stop talking about getting nonprofits to merge, unless we are willing to put up a retirement fund for the executive director who will be asked to leave. In the for-profit sector, mergers happen because the losing chief executive gets a financially rewarding exit. If we create similar incentives in the nonprofit sector, we will get many more mergers.
— Gerald Chertavian, chief executive of Year Up, a nonprofit that offers training programs to young urban adults
Andrea Renault/ Globe/ Zumapress/ Newscom
Today you don’t have to be a world leader, celebrity, or even a billionaire to have an impact. We all have a role to play in changing the world. I’m resolving to make 2012 a year to think globally, get involved, and get things done. I hope others will make this their resolution as well.
— Ted Turner, founder, CNN and the United Nations Foundation
Rather than focus on protecting tax incentives that primarily benefit the well-to-do, and fighting limits to the charitable deduction, nonprofit leaders should concentrate on addressing income inequality and the social problems that creates. Let us resolve to remember who we are: the voice of the common good. Our job is to propose answers to the question of how a country can guarantee all its inhabitants a life of freedom, security, and peace. We are smart enough to figure this out and, at 10 percent of the work force and well over a trillion dollars passing through our coffers every year, we are powerful enough to make it happen. This year, let’s be brave enough to actually do it.
— Kim Klein, a fund-raising consultant
Collaboration will be critical in 2012 and beyond. Donors are not going to continue supporting the massive amount of duplication and waste that our sector has generated over the past few decades. The nonprofit world should resolve to establish formal collaborations between complementary organizations that can increase both the efficiency and impact of each partner agency.
— Jeremy Gregg, executive director, the PLAN Fund, a Dallas microfinance group
The top American philanthropic organizations have been largely AWOL from supporting our military and veterans during the decade-long war on terrorism. Let 2012 be the year the American philanthropic community joined forces with military nonprofits to ensure our troops are truly welcomed home.
— Bill Nelson, executive director, USA Cares, a group that helps military personnel, veterans, and their families
Stop referring to our industry by what we don’t do. Not-for-profit is a tax status, not an operating model. We are social-benefit organizations that produce significant value.
— Howard Kucher, executive director, the Evergreen Project, a health-care advocacy group in Baltimore
Courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
We should constantly seek to improve engagements with our grantees, partners, and stakeholders. Not only do we need to share more about our strategies and what we’re learning, but we need to listen more. We should agree to work together as a sector to accelerate progress on measuring the impact of our work and using the results to make our work better. Together we can learn to use measurement, information, and data to continually improve our efforts to accelerate the change in the world we all seek.
— Jeff Raikes, president, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
I would like to see all nonprofits, but especially the smaller ones, resolve to improve their financial controls. Bank statements, cancelled checks, and credit- card charges should be reviewed every month, and not by the same person that signs the checks. It is much easier to prevent an embezzlement than to recover from one.
— Elizabeth Grant, head of the charitable activities section, Oregon attorney general’s office; president of the National Association of State Charity Officials
2012 must mark the year we get in front of technology, instead of behind it. Let’s resolve to unleash the full potential of social media and Internet marketing for fund raising, community organizing, and advocacy.
— Darian Rodriguez Heyman, author of Nonprofit Management 101
2012 may, I hope, be the year of data. Not only do I see more organizations looking for ways to be data-driven in decision making, communications, campaigning, and marketing, but also a growing interest and understanding of the value in sharing data. Just as we want to be data-driven inside our organizations, the more we share our data with each other, the more data-driven we can be in our work collectively.
— Amy Sample Ward, membership director, Nonprofit Technology Network
As wonderful as new heights of effectiveness would be, a lot could be accomplished if foundations aspired to a bit more alignment, and a lot less duplication.
— Bradford Smith, president, Foundation Center
Nonprofits should be more sensitive to the impact of policy on the general population and thus be more hesitant to accept government offers of immunity that protect the nonprofit from government interference, but leave their constituencies vulnerable. For example, nonprofits must give careful consideration to offers of exemption from requirements to hire people whose lifestyles are contrary to their values in return for their support.
— Richard Land, president, Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
2011 helped us better understand the nature of our struggle to protect the environment: As the effort to build the Keystone XL gas pipeline made clear, some corporations really are radical enough to want to change the chemical composition of the atmosphere rather than their business plans. So 2012 is going to be about fighting back against that kind of corporate power—everything from taking away subsidies to really asking whether corporations deserve to be treated as people.
— Bill McKibben, environmental activist and author; founder of 350.org, a climate-change advocacy group
Philanthropy must adapt to the growing diversity of donors, activists, and communities. We need to work with and support the new global majority—people of color—to create the next generation of leaders, overhaul our failing educational and health systems, and conquer pervasive structural racism.
— Melissa Bradley, chief executive, the Tides Foundation
2012 must be the year of deeper vs. wider. We must resolve not to pursue every opportunity to serve—like a raccoon chasing every shiny object it sees—but instead focus our efforts on where we can maximize impact.
— Ritu Sharma, executive director, Social Media for Nonprofits
To be a good steward of the money we bring in. We want our supporters to see that we are spending money wisely.
— Paige Holmes, development director, the Jackson (Tenn.) Symphony