Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How has your nonprofit prepared for the new economic environment?

The headlines of the past few days underscore why 2012 will be a year in which communities across the country need Community Wealth Ventures more than ever.

The lead story in the January 1 NY Times describes the Obama Administration’s decision to basically give up on getting anything significant done in Congress in 2012 except the extension of the payroll tax cut. See: : “President Obama heading into his re-election campaign with plans to step up his offensive against an unpopular Congress, concluding that he cannot pass any major legislation in 2012 because of Republican hostility toward his agenda.”

The lead story of today’s NYT is about Defense Secretary Panetta’s proposal to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from the defense budget driven by the Obama Administration’s vision of fiscal reality. If these kinds of cuts in defense spending, which are a foregone conclusion, just imagine the constraints we are going to see on domestic and human and social service budgets at all levels of government.

With government both gridlocked and broke, there will be greater and greater pressure in the year ahead for nonprofits and public-private partnerships to advance innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to community needs. As government spending shrinks, more nonprofits will be expected to help fill the gap, notwithstanding the impracticality, if not impossibility, of accomplishing more with less.

Given CWV’s track record of helping high performing nonprofits embrace ingredients of growth and transformation, achieve sustainability and scale, and create community wealth; we may be filling a need, and intersecting with the national conversation, in ways greater than once imagined.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Encouraging evidence that we are broadening our base

Share Our Strength ended 2011 with a record level of revenues, and year-end on-line giving up more than 130%, exceeding $1.4 million. These are remarkable results. The donation I am most excited about however was one we received for fifty bucks.

In the last days of 2011 this $50 contribution came from eight teachers in Fairfax County’s Family and Early Childhood Education Program (HeadStart) with a note that perfectly underscores one of our strategic imperatives for 2012. : “Please accept this donation to the No Kid Hungry campaign on behalf of the eight of us, all Early Childhood Resource Teachers in the FECEP/Headstart program in Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, VA. We work with children and families of poverty each day and know their struggles. This year we decided to forgo our own gift exchange and donate to your cause instead. We appreciate all that you are attempting to do for these kids and their families!”

When teachers tell us that supporting our program is one of the most important ways of advancing their work, it is powerful testimony that ending childhood hunger through No Kid Hungry has the potential to become an education issue and with a larger constituency than we might have imagined. Childhood hunger and nutrition are health issues too. They are also tied to economic competitiveness.

Why is this so important? We’ve done a great job of capturing the imaginations and earning the support of those passionate about ending childhood hunger. But that universe of anti-hunger advocates, by itself, is not large enough to get the job done.
But it has given us a solid foundation from which to grow. Our strategic imperative going forward is to broaden our base, so that just like the 8 HeadStart teachers in Fairfax County who donated at year-end, those who are passionate about education, health care, and even economic growth come to see ending childhood hunger as a priority they should make their own.

All successful movements – from civil rights to the environment - succeed when they are able to cross over and appeal to a broader constituency than their original passionate but small base. It’s exciting to start 2012 knowing that those who work so closely with the most vulnerable of our children, such as the HeadStart teachers in Fairfax County, are reaching out to join our campaign.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Obama has an alternative to skirmishing with Congress: working with Governors on No Kid Hungry

The lead story in today’s NY Times describes the Obama Administration’s decision to basically give up on getting anything significant done in Congress in 2012 except the extension of the payroll tax cut. See: @

It feels like good politics more than good governing but also a reasonably realistic choice given the recalcitrance of the opposition party to compromise in any way, shape or form. But there is another route for Obama to get things done, and that is by more closely working with the nation’s governors, who while political, do not operate in the same insular culture of Capitol Hill, and are not subject to the same pressures to build or preserve congressional majorities.

At Share Our Strength we’ve seen first-hand the impact that governors can have in bringing Obama’s policy goals to fruition. When it comes to ending childhood hunger for example Democrats like Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe and Republicans like Virginia Gov. McDonnell have been instrumental in helping close the gap between the number of children eligible for food and nutrition programs like school breakfast and summer meals, and those actually participating. Best of all, there are no budget battles to be fought because the programs are relatively small entitlements whose funding has already been assured with bipartisan support.

President Obama campaigned on the idea of changing the way Washington works. One way to do that is to reach out more powerfully to the state executives responsible for implementing programs the federal government has created. One result, even during this difficult economic period, could be an America that achieves the bold goal of ensuring there is No Kid Hungry.