Nonprofit Day 2012


I had the pleasure of attending the 25th Anniversary Nonprofit Day conference – Generations of Change: A Multigenerational Leaders Conference on August 3rd brought to us jointly by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. Great job to all involved!

Jan Masaoka, CEO of the California Association of Nonprofits, opened the conference with a call to action - Vote with Your Mission - and a few useful tips: attend sessions focused on areas you know nothing about, listen for bad ideas as well as good ones, and meet one new person. She reminded us that if everybody associated with a nonprofit voted and participated in the political process, we would have better elected officials and better policies. This could have tremendous impact in advancing our organization's missions.

Highlights of a morning plenary session, 1 + 1 = 10 The Power of the Common Good, are well captured by Lloyd Dangle's cartoon. Speakers Kim Klein (Fundraising for Social Change), Annie Leonard (The Story of Stuff), Trish Tchume (YNPN), and Phil Ting (Assessor-Recorder, City & County of San Francisco) discussed a paradigm shift in which nonprofits focus on pursuing, expanding and protecting the common good above their individual brands and commodities.

Stanford Professor and co-author of Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard Chip Heath gave the lunchtime keynote, premiering a presentation focused on decision-making, the topic of his upcoming book. Chip has a way of providing great lessons using logical data in the most entertaining manner. We were asked not to reveal too much about the presentation, but I'll share that it focused on the need to improve the process of decision-making beyond analysis and intuition. The big tip: don't fall into the binary decision trap; consider other possibilities and options.

An afternoon plenary session, Successful Corporate Partnerships from the Inside Out, moderated by CompassPoint CEO Jeanne Bell, introduced us to five signature corporate-nonprofit partnerships between PG&E and Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco, Wells Fargo and Stern Grove Festival Association, Target and the Alameda County Community Food Bank, and Forest City and Intersection for the Arts. We listened to how and why each of these relationships became successful for both parties and then had the chance to dive deeper with one particular partnership. I was particularly intrigued with the Forest City – Intersection for the Arts involvement in the 5M Project, "a creative development in downtown San Francisco designed to catalyze the innovative ideas that build our economy and strengthen our communities," and what is hoped to be a leading example of the impact of art, culture, and urban development in social change. I confess to having had the privilege of hearing this story from some of the principals ahead of time, but it continues to excite me.

The closing program was presented by Erica Williams, CEO of Foolish Life Ventures and recently named a Young Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum. Erica brilliantly captured the recurrent theme of the importance of political advocacy. Service is invaluable, but not enough; we need structual change.

With the breakout format, I missed some intriguing sessions, including Lessons from the Immigrant Rights Movement: A Cross Generational Dialogue, featuring, among others, civil rights icon Dolores Huerta. A truly impressive conference. Much props to CompassPoint and YNPN.