Columns

Notes from the Chairman

12/10/2015

Dear Colleagues:

I’m pleased to write with news of significant developments at American Nonprofits. As many of you know, our organization was established in 2012 with the broad mission to develop programs for supporting the rapidly evolving finance and capitalization needs of the nonprofit sector.

Our first approach to addressing this mission was to explore the creation of a national nonprofit credit union. We undertook two years of intensive research and development work with the membership of the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance of California (NIAC). In conjunction with this R&D effort, we acquired the online media project Blue Avocado in 2012, led by Jan Masaoka, as a means to help us define our membership and serve them more immediately with knowledge and insight into the field. In the end, the capitalization needs for the credit union idea proved too great to feasibly raise in the current philanthropic environment.

Concurrent with the research around a credit union model, NIAC began a pilot program lending amounts of $50,000 or less to nonprofits on an unsecured basis. Marc Rand, a consultant and American Nonprofits board member is overseeing that project. The intention is to demonstrate the need and potential business model feasibility of an unsecured capital lending to the charitable sector. This demonstration pilot has achieved some early successes and may prove to be a viable alternative to the more capital-intensive credit union approach.

With the addition of several new board members this past spring, the board felt that a more concerted examination of American Nonprofits’ mission, vision and programs was necessary at this juncture. We asked Marc Rand to compile a report on the work of the loan fund pilot to date and offer his opinion on the future viability and next steps for this work. We were also interested in the future growth potential and business viability of Blue Avocado, which has been run largely as a volunteer project. We commissioned nationally regarded nonprofit media expert Kevin Davis and his team to complete an independent 360 review of Blue Avocado. Both of these reports were the focus of a board planning retreat held on November 19, 2015 in Washington DC.

The retreat resulted in a newly refined mission, vision, and set of potential programs. While we will be issuing a more detailed release about the retreat outcomes, we can confirm several decisions. We plan to continue and develop the loan fund project in some form, transferring its activities formally from NIAC to American Nonprofits. We also affirmed the great value of Blue Avocado as a voice in the charitable sector, and committed to working to increase its publication, readership, and revenue generation capacity, so that it can be more sustainable in the long term.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I thank you for your interest in and support of our work.  With continued shifts in government and institutional support and a rapidly expanding field of practice, the charitable sector in the United States is at a critical juncture, where the subject of financial strength and capitalization is more essential than ever. We look forward to contributing a leadership voice and being a platform for delivering essential services in the nonprofit finance arena.

Cordially,

 

Andrew Hastings