News and analysis
November 08, 2012

Promote a Strong Future for Citizens Around the World

Nonprofit Leaders' Advice to the President

During the next four years, President Obama will face a number of challenges and will likely make changes that will affect the nonprofit world. With that in mind, The Chronicle invited a group of nonprofit leaders and thinkers to share their ideas about what the president’s nonprofit agenda should be.

A sampling of their responses is below. To keep the conversation flowing, please add your own ideas by posting a comment at the bottom of this page.

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Understand the significance of the arts and culture to our aspirations as a nation.

Focus on arts education. Experience and research show that students—our next generation—gain creativity; confidence; manual, mathematical, and technical skills; social awareness; and learning strengths from the arts. The arts need to be embedded in our schools because they prepare children for work and citizenry. When the White House gives attention to the subject, the media, school boards and school systems, funders, and leaders will give it attention, too. Federal offices and agencies besides the Education Department and National Endowment for the Arts can be challenged to address arts and education.

Our artists are among the world’s greatest. When one of them makes the news (or the obituaries), your public recognition of that person would inspire us to value the ways in which the arts make us who we are.

—Agnes Gund, philanthropist and chairwoman, Museum of Modern Art’s PS1 Contemporary Art Center

Use nonprofits as partners in working for the social good.

Maximize the reach and creativity of the nation’s nonprofits by employing them as partners in achieving our highest priorities: putting America back to work, building schools that educate great citizens, and creating opportunities for returning soldiers to continue to serve.

We are not short on solutions or people willing to serve. As AmeriCorps has demonstrated, there is far more demand for opportunities to make a difference than we as a nation have offered. The challenge and the opportunity now lie in investing in partnerships that bring solutions and American talent together at a far greater scale than ever before.

—Jill Vialet, chief executive officer, Playworks

Noah Berger, The New York Times

Give community leaders technology tools to promote change.

Domestically, the double blow of decreased funding and increased demand means nonprofits are struggling and recovery is slow. Internationally, exciting opportunities for supporting robust civil societies exist, but the global economic crisis makes taking advantage of them difficult. Many nonprofits have responded by finding innovative solutions, often making creative use of technology and mobilizing wide-ranging networks.

The president can amplify the sector’s collective impact by spearheading a strategic shift in international development and fostering growth of global civil society. He can help put the skills, networking support, technology, and other resources of American foundations, corporations, and others into the hands of local community leaders around the world. The effort will require bringing together groups that sometimes see each other as antagonists, even though their philanthropic goals are often closely aligned—governments, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and community leaders.

—Rebecca Masisak, co-chief executive officer, TechSoup Global

More ideas from this series

Ensure a Healthy Nonprofit Environment

Foster America's Economic Might

Help the Vulnerable