Sunday, June 16, 2024

Nonprofits flock to LSUS for statewide conference

by BIZ Magazine

Nearly 200 of Louisiana’s top nonprofit personnel packed into LSU Shreveport’s ballroom Wednesday to hear respected voices from across the field during the Louisiana Alliance for Nonprofit Organization’s annual conference. 

The conference is making its first appearance in North Louisiana in many years, partly because of the role LSUS’s Institute for Nonprofit Administration and Research (INAR) plays on the statewide nonprofit scene.  

Participants jotted down nuggets on a variety of topics – nonprofit employee burnout, fundraising, diversity, board governance and cyber security and technology among others.

Organizations are always attempting to be more efficient, but Dr. Heather Carpenter said efficiency is even more critical as nonprofits are facing declines in donations and staffing levels. 

“Nonprofits are still trying to recover from COVID-19,” said Carpenter, executive director of INAR. “There’s about a four percent decline in donations in the United States after donations were up in 2020 and 2021. 

“Inflation was a key driver in that reduction. Nonprofits are also facing workforce shortages just like other industries.” 

One way to increase donations, says Carter Global co-founder Steve Higgins, is to focus less time on activities that don’t generate revenue. 

“Fundraising is an activity that needs to happen across your organization, and your entire team needs to have the same message,” Higgins said. “But most organizations spend 90 percent of their time on the 90 percent of donors who give about 10 percent of the money. 

“You should treat all donors with respect, but you have to focus on activities that have a high payoff.” 

In Louisiana, there are nearly 17,000 active nonprofits across the state. The median nonprofit income statewide is about $150,000, which means every dollar matters. 

Sixty-four percent of donations to nonprofits come from individuals while another nine percent comes from bequests, meaning individuals account for about 73 percent of overall giving. 

Carpenter added that nonprofits don’t have a large enough voice in economic and business discussions given that nonprofits account for about $31 billion of revenue in Louisiana and employ eight percent of the state’s workforce. 

“We’re left out of economic conversations because we provide services, not make products,” Carpenter said. “But we fill gaps in services where government can’t, and nonprofits collectively should have more seats at the table during those discussions.” 

One discussion happening across the nonprofit industry involves how best to serve diverse communities.

Maxine Crump, founder of Dialogue on Race Louisiana, said representation and involvement from those communities will help deliver better results.

“There are people in those communities that can be involved in your services,” Crump said. “They can be part of your workforce, part of volunteer group, a part of your board and your leadership.

“Boards that are too homogenous, whatever that makeup may be, have a greater chance of being ineffective or even doing harm.”

Kindness, not harm, was the central tenet of Maya Enista Smith’s keynote lunch speech.

Enista Smith, who served as the executive director of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, said kindness has measurable scientific benefits in addition to the positive feelings it generates.

“Kindness activates part of the brain that produces serotonin and dopamine, and it affects the receivers, doers and witnesses of kindness,” Enista Smith said. “Kindness reduces anxiety and depression while is also found to have anti-aging properties.

“Kindness is embedded in the (nonprofit) work we’ve chosen to do … and it will help you to keep coming back to climb the mountain each day.”

Other presenters included Beth Kanter (workplace well-being), Ned Fasullo (cybersecurity and technology) and Colton Strawser (board governance).

The Louisiana Alliance for Nonprofits and LSUS’s INAR presented the event.

INAR operates an informative website, including a GIS map of every nonprofit in the state and an online booklet titled “Journey to Nonprofit Success.”

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