The Philadelphia Foundation Hosts First Ever New Nonprofit Executive Director MeetupBy Zack Seward for Generocity/NewsWorks |
Being new is hard — especially when it comes to running a nonprofit.
The Philadelphia Foundation wants to help. That’s why it hosted its first ever New Nonprofit Executive Director Meetup earlier this week.
The goal is to get new EDs talking amongst themselves, while also providing the opportunity to network with some of the region’s leading funders.
“Just getting [new executive directors] to know each other is good,” says Philadelphia Foundation President Andrew Swinney, the event’s host. “But we also thought it would be important that other funders in the community got to meet them on an informal basis — instead of just when they come to apply for a grant.”
Nearly two-dozen new EDs and about ten funders attended the invite-only meetup. It featured both brief presentations and ample opportunity for networking.
“The opportunity to meet the funders is amazing,” said Margaret Magee, the new executive director of Daemion Counseling Center. Magee has been on the job three months. “It puts that face to the person, and when you’re writing that grant you know that you can pick up the phone and call them.”
While Magee says meeting with potential funders is “probably the most important thing,” she says the chance to tap in to a vibrant peer network is also a major plus.
The new EDs swapped business cards and shared advice in the Philadelphia Foundation’s 18th floor Center City offices. Attendees said the event provided a chance to compare notes.
“We’re sharing a common feeling: some of doubt, some of excitement,” said Kirsten Halker-Kratz of the Chester Children’s Chorus. She’s been ED for just six weeks. “All of us are going through the same learning process.”
To get a sense of first impressions, Generocity sat down with a handful of the new executives. Below: some choice insights, observations and pro tips from a small slice of the nonprofit sector’s new guard.
Margaret Magee, Daemion Counseling Center: “The first impression is that there are a lot of organizations that are doing great work.”
Kirsten Halker-Kratz, Chester Children’s Chorus: “Any free workshop or workshop that you can afford to attend you should definitely go to. Because you run into these people a lot. Philadelphia is such a great community. There are so many connections that you can make and they just help you feel more united in what you’re doing — because you’re all doing the common good.”
Erin DeCou, Neighborhood Bike Works: “It is a vibrant network and it is a small network, although there are always new people that you can be meeting and new EDs coming in that you can connect with as well. I would say it’s a very supportive environment.”
Kirsten Halker-Kratz, Chester Children’s Chorus: “It really is a small world in a way, and that makes it a productive world, especially in the nonprofit world.”
On the new gig
Peter Gonzales, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians: “Somebody the other day described it as spinning plates. Any given day or week, there are a dozen or more projects that need tending. And somehow your brain adjusts to manage all the various projects and relationships. Maintaining vision for the future but also being able to address the issue of the moment is an adjustment for me. It’s a lot of fun.”
Kirsten Halker-Kratz, Chester Children’s Chorus: “We’ve all come from a place where we felt really confident about what we did. Now we’ve moved to a new organization where we feel those same strengths, but we need to create a new place for us so that we feel confident about what we’re doing.”
On the meetup
Erin DeCou, Neighborhood Bike Works: “An event like this is really pretty perfect because it pairs you with other people in the same situation — peers who can give a little bit of help on whether it’s fundraising, or staff management, or just keeping yourself sane.”
Margaret Magee, Daemion Counseling Center: “The opportunity to meet someone from, say, the Pew Charitable Trust and to have a conversation with that person and then be able to email him or her is terrific. It’s a terrific opportunity for the inside track.”
Kirsten Halker-Kratz, Chester Children’s Chorus: “It’s really great to have consortiums of nonprofit leaders so that we can meet and talk about the things that might be troubling us. These people are the people who are going to help us take that [next big] step. Because they’ve either gone through it or they know someone who has. That’s why these are so important.”
Peter Gonzales, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians: “The room is filled with other people who are going through the same issues — time management, board development issues, finance and budget issues, fundraising, responding to 70 to 100-plus emails on any given day — and you realize that you’re not alone. You kind of get a sense of humor about the situation.”
BONUS: Pro tips from the Philadelphia Foundation’s Andrew Swinney
“The first advice I would give [to new EDs] is that they don’t find themselves siloed or isolated in their nonprofit.”
“The longer you focus inwardly, the less you’re going to get out. And if you don’t get out and meet fellow executive directors, then you’re not really ever going to be able to learn from them or come up with good ideas or collaborate or realize that you’re doing a program that somebody is doing much better than you are.”
“In today’s environment, both economically and politically, and the cutbacks that we are seeing, the way a nonprofit runs itself is going to impact its ability to deliver on its mission. One of our key strategies here is to strengthen the nonprofits through capacity-building grants and general operating support.”
“In the five-county region, there are over 7,000 nonprofits functioning right now. The nonprofit sector provides education, health care, the arts, recreation, care of the elderly, care of the young — all of that is the nonprofit sector.”
“The community doesn’t recognize that these are no longer just charities and we’re helping a few people. This is the very infrastructure of our community. And if we don’t invest in it, then we are not going to be able to continue to exist as a community.”
Zack Seward is the Innovations Reporter for NewsWorks in partnership with Generocity. (Photo by Zack Seward)blog comments powered by Disqus