Convene, connect, commit

Trisha Lester, left, and Sally Migliore
Trisha Lester, left, and Sally Migliore

Trisha Lester and Sally Migliore

The recent Nonprofit Congress in Washington, D.C., brought together 400 grassroots regional, statewide, and national nonprofit leaders from across the country.

The first Congress in 2006 was a watershed moment for uniting the sector by focusing on three top priorities — advocacy and grassroots community activities; nonprofit
organizational effectiveness; and public awareness and support of the sector.

It felt like we were creating a movement, and this year’s gathering helped us continue the momentum.

Through each presentation and interaction, there emerged consistent themes of the importance of the sector to a healthy society and our collective power in informing public policy.

One presenter focused on the challenges that our sector faces, including enormous fiscal stresses; new service demands on the sector from government due to economic and demographic changes; human resources issues; and greater visibility of the sector by traditional and new media.

Another talked about the need to take care of ourselves and our organizations (“Nonprofit Workout: Keeping Ourselves and Our Sector Fit” is the theme of this year’s statewide conference of the N.C. Center for Nonprofits); the importance of defining who we are rather than being told by others; and the requirement of knowing and living our values.

The glass is half full, and there are also many opportunities.

Among them is a renewed sense of individual responsibility. In short, everyone has a personal reason why they get involved in the nonprofit sector and want to be part of
this movement.

We’re a sector that values inclusiveness and can act on this value to create different models of leadership.

We were particularly proud that North Carolina was featured as a model for its Nonprofit Awareness Month.

By the end of the gathering, we heard from seven states that they intended to replicate versions of Nonprofit Awareness Month.

North Carolina’s delegation spent the last day on Capitol Hill visiting our legislators and advocating on issues affecting nonprofits — restoring the IRA Charitable Rollover; increasing the charitable mileage rate; continuing to support student-loan forgiveness for nonprofit workers; and protecting the estate tax.

We hope others will commit to the priorities of the Congress and join this national movement.

The 2009 Congress will be held in New Orleans May 14-16.

Can you think of a better place to be, given how the nonprofit sector responded to this city’s disaster?

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