Big Ideas at the Philanthropy Partners Conference

May is going to be an incredibly busy month at Mano en Mano and even though we’re only about a week into it, there are many big ideas floating around right now.

Last week I gathered in Northport, Maine with 400 other professionals from the nonprofit and foundation world.  Together, we represented nearly every agency and foundation that does work in the state!  We met to discuss changing times and new opportunities and figure out ways to do our work more effectively and more efficiently.  Over the past thirty years, the number of nonprofits in the U.S. has doubled to 1.5 million.  According to Diana Aviv, our keynote speaker, nonprofits today must collaborate with and beyond the sector, make better use of technology, and constantly demonstrate the positive difference and results of our work.

I also attended a workshop about mission investing and social enterprise.  The idea is still relatively new in Maine, but there’s now legislation on the table to create a new type of business license: the L3C or low-profit, limited liability company.  Plenty of other states, including Vermont have this license on the books which allows for-profit enterprises to receive grants just like a nonprofit would.  Maine’s Own Organic Milk Company or MOO Milk Co. is a great example of this type of operation.  They make money, but they invest the majority back into preserving Maine’s dairy farms.  In fact, 90% of their profits are earmarked for that purpose!  Coastal Enterprises, Inc. is another example of the merger between the non-profit and for-profit sectors.  CEI operates a number of programs, but the one that caught my eye is CEI Investment Notes, a way for individuals to invest money into the community and make money doing it.  The operation most closely resembles a CD from a bank except that it is used to promote socially responsible developments in Maine and is not guaranteed by the FDIC.  You can also earmark your investment into a particular field like sustainable agriculture or immigrant and refugee business development.  The minimum investment is $5,000 and the interest rate is higher than available at banks!

Finally, I met a number of other young nonprofit professionals and am exploring the idea of starting a chapter of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network here in Maine.  According to their website, “A 2004 study conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation revealed that 72.5% of all nonprofit leaders were in their 40s and 50s, with 55% over the age of 50. 65% of the organizations surveyed said they are likely to go through a leadership transition by 2009 and 57% of organizations have experienced a transition within the last 10 years. These findings confirm similar studies conducted over the last few years illustrating the looming leadership deficit the nonprofit sector will face as soon as 2007. It is reported that by 2007 between 61% and 78% of executive directors will retire or leave their organizations. This impending leadership deficit could be the greatest challenge nonprofits face over the next ten years.”

Now check out this number from Maine Association of Nonprofits: “In 2005, reporting Maine nonprofits contributed $7 billion to the Maine economy through wages paid, retail and wholesale sales, and professional services contracted. This accounts for almost 15% of the State’s gross product, which is the same percentage as the manufacturing and construction industries combined.”  For more information, check out this report: “Partners in Prosperity” (pdf).

It’s time to recognize the economic impact of the nonprofit sector in Maine and around the country and the crucial role young people are already playing in it.

Leave a Reply