14th Annual California Association of Nonprofits (CAN) Conference – November 3-4, 2005

For the third consecutive year, I attended the CAN Annual Conference and was again rewarded with excellent presentations, workshops and networking opportunities.  I was particularly impressed with the workshop "The Accountability Challenge:  What’s Right for Your Organization?" led by CAN Executive Director Flo Green, and the two lunchtime plenaries:  "Beyond Tomorrow: The Future of Foundation Giving," featuring panelists Teresa Alvarado, Government Relations, PG&E, Tangerine Brigham, Program Officer, San Francisco Foundation, Kathi Gwynn, President, Steven and Michele Kirsch Foundation, and Jeff Sunshine, Director of Programs, Community Foundation Silicon Valley; and "Beyond Survival:  Rethinking Nonprofit Funding," featuring panelists Way-Ting Chen, Partner, Blue Garnet Associates, Dave McDonough, Director of the Center for Social Enterprise, Volunteer Center Orange County, Arthur Rieman, Managing Attorney, The Law Firm for Nonprofits, and Bruce Sievers, Visiting Scholar, Stanford University (among his other prestigious positions).

The Accountability Challenge:  What’s Right for Your Organization?

Overview of Issues:
* Most nonprofits are accountable – but failure gets media coverage.
* Nonprofits seem to be painted with the same brush.
* Not just illegal behavior that causes loss of trust.
* Compliance with regulations will not in of itself improve public trust.
* Challenge is making accountability and integrity more visible on an everyday basis.
* Change organizational culture to include accountability at the same level as fundraising and program management.

Multidimensionality of Accountability:
* Who are our audiences?
* What are their interests, expectations, needs?
* What kinds of accountability would fulfill those concerns?
* What are you willing to do?
* How can you improve what you do?

Accountability Methods:
* Disclosure.
* Increased visibility.
* Increased transparency.
* Internal controls and anti-fraud policies.
* Whistleblower protected, practiced, encouraged.
* Communication.

"Charitable organizations with the greatest likelihood of satisfying emerging public expectations will be those that take all measures necessary to ensure that the conduct of their directors, officers, and employees reflect the highest ethical standards appropriate to the organization’s structure and mission.  To settle for less is to run the risk that the charitable organization’s reputation for integrity will be weakened, its respect by the community will be diminished, and its ability to fulfill its mission will be imperiled."  – Tom Silk, Silk, Adler & Colvin, in Ten Emerging Principles of Governance of Nonprofit Corporations and Guides to a Safe Harbor (2004)

Beyond Survival:  Rethinking Nonprofit Funding

* Social Enterprise (SE) is an earned income venture, business or strategy undertaken by a nonprofit to generate revenue in support of its nonprofit mission.
* SE should be undertaken with a double bottom line perspective:  (1) mission (first), and (2) financial sustainability (a close second).
* A successful SE will require commitment, planning, a change in mind set and adoption and application of sound, modern business principles.
* On the other hand, a nonprofit must be concerned about managing its priorities with respect to the SE because there will be a tension between the charitable purpose and the financial bottom line.
* Key to managing this concern is strong leadership and governance and predefined objectives.
* Some resources:  Blue Garnet Associates, Social Enterprise Alliance, Roberts Enterprise Development Fund (REDF).