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In the last twenty years or so, many networks of nonprofits have emerged and/or become newly strong. Some are coalitions, such as the Family Resource Center Network, while others developed in specific professions, such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and the evaluators' networks. There has been increasing recognition of the importance of these networks as learning communities, builders of relationships that blossom into joint action, and advocates for their constituencies with the nonprofit sector.

One under-developed area for such a professional network is among nonprofit finance professionals and those concerned with the role of finance in strategy. Executive directors, development staff, and HR managers have professional networks, and program staff find networks within their fields (such as aging, theatre, toxics mitigation).  Although finance staff are both important leaders within their organizations and positioned to provide thought leadership to a sector constantly seeking new approaches to financial sustainability, they do not have a forum for exchange of ideas and information.

Beyond finance professionals, finance-related issues such as nonprofit accounting, cash management, finance credentialing, and bond issues don't have a place for creative dialog and debate among nonprofit leaders and funders. There are some consulting groups doing important work in these areas, such as Bridgespan and the Nonprofit Finance Fund, but there are not ways for practitioners to engage in these discussions. For instance, the Urban Institute conducted a very interesting study on the issue of operating reserves in nonprofits, but there are no platforms for discussion or action to grow out of it. There is neither a journal nor a set of conferences where the nonprofit field can grow its thinking and share what it is learning, particularly with the introduction of new "hybrid" financial models for nonprofits and new kinds of investment vehicles.

And at the top of our agenda are plans for a federal credit union for nonprofit organizations, their staff, volunteers and stakeholders. Such a credit union would be an ideal complementary financial institution for many nonprofits: one that would provide them with a place for deposits that is federally guaranteed and keeps the fees in the nonprofit sector, and would also provide them with lines of credit, credit cards, and other modest credit vehicles from which they are currently redlined by banks. The credit union would also be a financial institution where supporters of the nonprofit sector could proudly place their deposits and obtain services such as checking and savings accounts, credit cards, and loans.  For more on this project, check out Credit Union Progress.

Our highest aspirations are that American Nonprofits and the American Nonprofit Federal Credit Union (ANFCU) will result in:

•  A national network of nonprofit financial professionals, able to leverage mutual expertise and experience, and guide important research and advocacy
•  An online library of important information, research, and opinion pieces with wiki capacity that can be accessed by finance professionals both in the nonprofit sector and those serving the nonprofit sector
• A network focused on capital markets for nonprofits, financial management in nonprofits, and the role of finance in nonprofit strategy
• Access to credit for nonprofits that operate essential social programs that will allow them to operate without disruption due to matters such as late government payments, state budget delays, and other events
• A regulated member-owned banking institution that serves nonprofits, their staff, volunteers, and stakeholders that  is professionally managed and democratically determined
• A more efficient, self-reliant and secure nonprofit sector with the ability to make decisions based on strategy rather than on short-term cash needs.
• An altered market where for-profit financial institutions are influenced to provide more credit to the nonprofit sector because of the credit union’s demonstrated success.

American Nonprofits’ website role is to serve as a national network of nonprofit professionals to guide and leverage our mutual expertise around all things finance related in the nonprofit sector.  We have our opinions about where we should take this effort, but we do not presume to know what is important to you.   Please tell us how to meet your needs with this very short survey.