The CauseKit

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The Future of Arts Nonprofits in a New Political Landscape

30CauseKitTags: , , , June, 17

By Meryl Friedman, Graduate Fellow at Cause Strategy Partners, LLC

As part of a collaboration with New York Community Trust (NYCT), our team at Cause Strategy Partners launched our first issue-focused BoardLead program in NYC last Fall called BoardLead Arts NYC. We set out to strengthen nonprofit arts organizations by training and placing diverse, talented, and driven professionals on their boards. In partnership with NYCT, Google, Goldman Sachs, and Mastercard, we placed 12 BoardLeaders on the boards of 11 nonprofits working in the arts!

But just as we dove into the incredible world of nonprofits who democratize the arts in NYC, the political landscape changed.  

During my first week as a Graduate Fellow at Cause Strategy Partners, I attended the first BoardLead Arts Learning Session where our new BoardLeaders get a crash course in board service. As our Principal & Founder, Robert Acton, discussed the responsibilities of board members, one BoardLeader raised a very thoughtful concern:

Will my nonprofit be affected by the new administration? Could my role as a board member change?

These are important questions, and unfortunately, we do not have clear answers. Nevertheless, I instantly wanted to dive into the topic to see what may lie ahead, and what — if anything– nonprofits  can do now to brace for change.

What I found? There is good news and bad news. Let’s get to work:

Decline in government funding for the cultural sector

Although funding for the arts has always been a hurdle, nonprofits may hit a new roadblock this year. Proposed budget cuts from the current federal administration would eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.

What could this mean?

In the short term, we will see an increase in competition for grants and donations. It is unclear what the long-term implications of this will be. But with 40% of NEA grants funding projects in high-poverty neighborhoods, and 36% of grants supporting underserved populations, we can only guess that access to the arts will dramatically shrink for those who need it the most.  

 

The Johnson Amendment

In 1954, Lyndon B. Johnson championed the Johnson Amendment to prevent tax-exempt religious institutions and nonprofits from intervening and participating in political campaigns. The amendment takes politics out of the nonprofit purview so that change makers can focus on addressing community needs rather than the next election. The amendment preserves the non-partisanship that fuel the nonprofit sector.

Why is this relevant now?

The current federal administration looks to repeal the Johnson Amendment, a decision that has the potential to completely alter the nonprofit landscape. Without the Johnson Amendment, donors could, for example, give anonymous and unlimited tax-free donations to support political candidates through their church. Many tax-exempt donations would no longer support a compassionate mission, but instead a political candidate.

A repeal of the Johnson Amendment would threaten the nonpartisanship that is so crucial to the nonprofit sector. President of the National Council of Nonprofits, Tim Delaney, said,

Nonpartisanship is vital to the work of charitable nonprofits. It enables organizations to address community challenges, and invites the problem-solving skills of all residents, without the distractions of party labels and the caustic partisanship that is bedeviling our country

There is good news!

Philanthropy is on the Rise

In 2016, philanthropic giving to all nine nonprofit sub-sectors increased to $390 billion in the U.S.! Individuals, foundations, and corporations seem galvanized to give to important causes. The arts and culture nonprofit subsector is the second-fastest growing and saw a 5% increase in donations. With $18 billion in donations last year, the arts sector might be able to diversify funding as government funding declines.

New York City is Allocating More Towards the Arts

In New York City, Mayor de Blasio is considering a shake-up to the $178 million municipal arts budget. With an eye on diversifying arts funding and supporting smaller organizations, New York’s nonprofit sector may see an increase in arts funding for underserved communities.

 

What Can You Do?

We don’t know exactly what local and federal policies and budgets will look like over the next 4 years, but we do know the power of nonprofit missions and the potential of their passionate leaders. We have been blown away by the impact of our nonprofit partners in New York City and Chicago. So what can you do in light of these new trends?

SHARE your mission every chance you get.

ASK for help: support doesn’t have to be financial. Ask friends to share your mission.

SPEAK UP for your mission and the voices of those who can’t speak up for themselves.

EDUCATE yourself and others on the potential impact of policy changes, then call your congressperson.

BUILD a strong, diverse, and resilient Board of Directors to expand your network and toolbox!

At Cause Strategy Partners, we get to meet amazing nonprofits and BoardLeaders who turn up every day to advocate for social change. We are constantly wowed by their courage and compassion. We are committed to placing driven and talented individual on nonprofit boards to support organizations through these changing times. We honor their grit, resilience, and heart. To learn more about our programs, follow us at @WeAreBoardLead.

 

 

Meryl Friedman
Meryl Friedman is a Graduate Fellow at Cause Strategy Partners. She is a graduate student at NYU Wagner focusing on Social Impact, Innovation, and Investment. Prior to graduate school, Meryl worked as an Operations Manager at the New Media Advocacy Project, an NYC nonprofit that tells the stories of human rights advocates through media.
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BoardLeaders Talk Tips for High-Impact Nonprofit Board Service

50Board Service, CauseKit, Leadership February, 17

By Erin Connell, Consultant at Cause Strategy Partners, LLC

Our BoardLeaders have proven their capabilities and drive in sheer numbers, with 56 BoardLeaders serving as high-impact nonprofit board members on 120 boards in New York and Chicago. As we prepare to launch our next round of BoardLead in both cities, our team wondered: what qualitative impact and growth have our BoardLeaders experienced through their nonprofit board service?

I was determined to find out. I spoke with 14 BoardLeaders from the NYC Spring 2015 cohort to learn more. My conclusion? Listen up, because these individuals have some serious knowledge to drop! The BoardLeaders I spoke with blew me away with their insights, their knowledge, and their confidence. Our BoardLeaders know nonprofit board service, and here’s what they had to say.

 

Be-Passionate-about-the-nonprofit-board-you-get-on

1. Be passionate

To excel as a nonprofit board member, you must passionately and honestly support the mission. First, for the nonprofit’s sake and yours, make sure you believe in their work! Your time (and money) is important, so seek service opportunities that invigorate your interests and passions. Second, be honest when seeking board opportunities; be true to yourself and true to your passions when seeking out service. This should be a cause you can get behind for a while, not just for the purpose of padding your resume. If you do this and are pure in your passions, you will set yourself up for the ideal board position – one that doesn’t feel like a job!

 

2. Be clear about your motives

It is important to be clear and honest with yourself, and with the nonprofit, about what you look to get out of board service – and about what they hope to gain from board members. All board members should contribute with their time, treasure and talent, though the degree to which you add to each will depend largely on your motives. Looking to build your strategic management skills? Hoping to contribute to the financial success of an organization? Aiming to commit your free time to a good cause? Understand and express your motives; you and the nonprofit both want a board situation where all parties bring and receive what they can, are comfortable with, and have agreed to.

 

3. Be honest with and about yourself

Understand what skills you can feasibly add to the board, as well as what their needs are. In particular, do your research and honestly look at the commitment. Then be up-front about what time and monetary support you can contribute. 

 

 

4. Make a friend through thoughtful and engaged listening

Before you commit to board service, take time to meet with the board chair, the board members, and the chief executive. Listen to their experiences and stories to fully understand the culture, the needs, and the expectations of the board and the organization. Once you are serving on a board, take advantage of learning from others. Take your fellow board members out for coffee to learn from them what engaged board service looks like. Go to board meetings and events, schedule informational interviews, and foster relationships with your fellow board members – and with the organization’s staff.

 

Be-Vocal-you-have-something-to-give-to-every-organization-and-people-will appreciate-your-participation

5. Be vocal

You have skills and a perspective that can add value – people will appreciate your participation and engagement!

 

Our BoardLeaders don’t just show their value in numbers: they prove to us everyday that strong nonprofit board service is possible through passionate, self-aware, and engaged commitment to service. At Cause Strategy Partners, we envision a world where we’re asked not where we work, but what causes we support. Engaging in high-impact, committed board service is a great way to put your passions to work. Our BoardLeaders have proven this potential; we hope their tips for how to approach and excel in board service will inspire others to do the same.

Erin Connell
Erin M. Connell, MPA is a Consultant and Project Manager at Cause Strategy Partners. She has over five years of professional experience working in both the public and private sectors, and is deeply passionate about public service. At Cause Strategy Partners, Erin collaborates on matters of non-profit management, corporate social responsibility, and board governance. Erin serves on the Alumni Board at City Year New York. She earned her M.P.A. from New York University (2017), and her B.A. from Columbia University (2013).
BoardLead-Spotlight-Kasia

BoardLeader Spotlight | Katarzyna Bednarowicz, NYC Spring 2016 Cohort

10BoardLeader Spotlight, CauseKit February, 17

By Jessica Riegel, Associate at Cause Strategy Partners, LLC

Cause Strategy Partners is thrilled to launch BoardLeader Spotlight, where we highlight the incredible work our BoardLeaders are doing with our nonprofit partners.  BoardLead strengthens social good organizations by recruiting, placing, training and supporting talented professionals from top companies for high-impact board service.

Meet BoardLeader Katarzyna Bednarowicz

Or you can call her Kasia for short. Kasia is an Account Executive at Google and BoardLeader at PowerPlay, which is a New York City nonprofit dedicated to inspiring and educating girls through sports and academic enrichment programs. While great board members can make an impact in many different ways, Kasia specifically sees her value as a “connector” with her company and is excited about jumpstarting a new volunteer effort that turns Google colleagues into PowerPlay mentors. Below is my exciting interview with her!

Kasia sees her value as a “connector” with her company and is excited about jumpstarting a new volunteer effort that turns Google colleagues into PowerPlay mentors.

 

Before learning about BoardLead, had you considered serving on a nonprofit board? Why did you choose to do so through BoardLead?

Kasia: I had been thinking of getting involved with a non-profit for a while, but as a full-time professional, I found it difficult to research the opportunities available. It is not always clear whether organizations actually need expertise and guidance from experienced professionals. It is not like these opportunities are growing on trees.

BoardLead bridges this gap by bringing corporate and nonprofit worlds together, highlighting the right opportunities for candidates. The application process is well-managed, which saves time and energy for both sides: resource-constrained nonprofits and busy professionals from the private sector. The matching system provided was very convenient and enabled me to find a strong fit. PowerPlay NYC represents all I believe in: “ambitious goals, persistence, dedication and passion for what you do, go a long way!”

 

Out of the 20 BoardLead partner organizations you could select, what about PowerPlay stood out to you? 

Kasia: PowerPlay is a unique organization with a mission statement that truly represents my personal beliefs. It empowers young females of NYC to grow physically and emotionally through sports and prepares them for their future careers. As a former athlete and a passionate runner and mountaineer, sports have always played an important role in my life. I believe in stretching myself outside of the comfort zone in order to grow. Sports helps girls learn how to set goals, deal with the setbacks and shapes persistence to follow through. PowerPlay teaches all these things to nearly 2,000 underprivileged girls across the five boroughs.

I love the responsibility that comes with the board membership. It’s extremely encouraging to have the direct impact on so many lives and to see how these girls develop over time with PowerPlay’s support. Throughout their journey, they grow their self-esteem, learn to stand up for themselves, develop strong leadership skills, and feel empowered to continue their education and achieve the career of their dreams.

 


 

 

Can you describe your first interaction with the PowerPlay staff, board and/or participants?

Kasia: It was a series of telephone interviews with the PowerPlay board members and the board chair. The best part of the interview process was the opportunity to see how the organization operates by visiting one of the workshops of the flagship program, called “SuperStar Leadership Academy,” this summer.

I met the girls at the rowing workshop in Queens. It was great to see them learning a new skill and talk to them about what this organization means to them. This gave me first-hand experience of what PowerPlay NYC does for these girls. I could also meet some of the PowerPlay employees.

 

Can you tell me about the initiatives you’ve worked on so far as a BoardLeader?

Kasia: I believe that I maximize my impact by connecting PowerPlay NYC with Google resources, inspiring my coworkers and friends to get involved too. The first initiative launched since I joined the board was a mentorship program supporting girls in their final year before the college. We paired them up with Googlers. They meet monthly to exchange ideas, get career advice, and have some fun. Mentees become more strategic about their future and Googlers learn and improve their mentorship skills. This is a true win-win. The demand exceeded my expectations with over 30 active mentors today. Another project is a half-day event at Google for 50 girls from Brooklyn. We want to inspire them to get involved in computer science.

It’s great to be part of this board and share the steering wheel with these passionate people to create a better future for so many girls. I see myself as a connector between Google and PowerPlay. I want to create as many long-term projects between these organizations as possible, as there is a huge value of this collaboration for both sides.

I see myself as a connector between Google and PowerPlay. I want to create as many long-term projects between these organizations as possible, as there is a huge value of this collaboration for both sides.

 

How has your board service experience so far impacted other areas of your life, work, or otherwise?

Kasia: Launching the Mentors Program has already had some positive outcomes. I am astonished by how much impact I have had since joining PowerPlay and by how my ideas create positive change in local communities. Mentorship program impacts positively lives of mentees and their mentors and we hear so much positive feedback from both sides.

Through board service, I have expanded my network within Google and met like-minded colleagues. I connected with people who want to get involved and gained lots of inspiration for the future projects. I truly believe the more I lean into this opportunity, the more I can get out of it.

I have some Googlers who recently approached me to do another project with PowerPlay. Google cares deeply about diversity and works hard to increase the number of females in the technology industry. When you start serving on a board, you become so much more aware and smarter about the possibilities around you and how to seize them best to create the most value for both organizations. I was able to expand my network within Google and meet like-minded colleagues. I connected with people who want to get involved and gained lots of inspiration for future projects. I truly believe the more I lean into this opportunity, the more I can get out of it.

I truly believe the more I lean into this opportunity, the more I can get out of it.

 

You are just starting your board service journey. Where do you see it headed in the next few years?

Kasia: I try not to plan all too far in advance and enjoy the current experience. I have been in sales for about 8 years, so I have started to think about my next steps. I feel that at some point I would like to leave the corporate world and try to have more impact in the nonprofit space, either by joining Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, or get involved in some nonprofit. Joining the board of PowerPlay NYC gives me a first-hand experience and helps me to test the waters and see if this is something I could imagine doing full-time.

 

What advice would you give to other young professionals considering nonprofit board service? 

Kasia: Think about what is important to you and what kind of cause you really feel passionate about and just try it! Thinking about the causes that matters to you will help you pick the right organization. I met many people in the last year to get informal advice from different nonprofits, just to understand what the role is and what are the daily responsibilities. However, there is nothing better and more insightful than hands-on experience. That’s why I’m so glad I came across BoardLead, and so grateful for what your organization is doing. Your matching system, bringing the professionals together with nonprofits, together truly changed my life!

 


Want to learn more about BoardLead?

Are you inspired to explore board service like Kasia? Or simply curious about what great service looks like? Visit our website to learn more about BoardLead and our other programs. Be sure to check out The CauseKit, our blog, for news, advice and insights from the social good space. You can also stay in the loop about our partners and see what other BoardLeaders are up to by following us @WeAreBoardLead and @CauseStrategy.

 

Jessica Riegel
Jessica Riegel is an Associate at Cause Strategy Partners, a purpose-driven social enterprise that believes in harnessing the power of business for social good. We are proud to be a Certified B Corporation. BoardLead is our signature board recruitment, placement, training and support program. In 2016, Cause Strategy Partners was named an inaugural honoree of the Best for NYC Award for demonstrated outstanding commitment to the community where we live and work. Learn more by visiting www.causestrategypartners.com.
BoardLead-2016YearinReview

BoardLead 2016: Look How Far We’ve Come in Just Two Years

21Board Service, BoardLead Update, CauseKit January, 17

By Alexandra Hallock, Consultant at Cause Strategy Partners, LLC

Cause Strategy Partners, LLC is approaching its two-year anniversary this February 2017. As we reflect on 2016 and look to 2017, we have a lot to celebrate! Join us as we review this year’s highlights and read on to see what’s coming.

We designed, built, and launched our signature BoardLead Program in collaboration with Heckscher Foundation for Children, Google, Barclays, and PwC in 2015. BoardLead recruits, places, trains, and supports earlier-career professionals from top companies for board service at high-impact nonprofits.  

We are consulting with other Fortune 500 companies, as well, helping them build out in-house board placement and philanthropic programs. Most importantly, we are privileged to work with a great group of national, regional, and local foundations and nonprofit organizations, helping them build and professionalize their board leadership and governance.

In less than two years, we’ve run our 10-month BoardLead program 5 times, in 2 cities, with 10 corporate and 56 nonprofit partners.

To date, BoardLead has placed over 120 professionals onto the boards of 56 nonprofits in New York City and Chicago! In less than two years, we’ve run our 10-month BoardLead program 5 times, in 2 cities, with 10 corporate and 56 nonprofit partners. Our Fall 2016 program is currently underway, and this spring we launch two additional BoardLead cohorts in New York and Chicago.

 

Let’s look at some highlights from 2016!

The Cause Strategy Team celebrating after our 2nd BoardLead learning session at our corporate partner, Google

2016 BoardLead Elections

This past year, 92 BoardLeaders were elected onto the Board of Directors of 39 nonprofits. Do the quick math and that’s an average of 2.4 BoardLeaders elected per organization! In fact, we’ve seen some of our nonprofit partners take as many as 4 BoardLeaders at once from the program and praise the benefits a new class of professionals brings to their existing Board of Directors.

Important Initiatives  – Diversity in the Arts

This year, for the first time in BoardLead history, we brought a specific focus to our program. That focus is to foster diversity for the boards of arts organizations in New York City. According to the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, while 64% of New Yorkers are from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds, just 22% of board members represent diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds. Mayor Bill De Blasio has called for us to “find ways to foster a creative sector that opens doors for every New Yorker, regardless of their background.”1 So, Cause Strategy Partners is joining the effort by increasing diversity for 20 New York City-based arts organizations and their boards in partnership with The New York Community Trust, Goldman Sachs, Google, and MasterCard.

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Rob and Erin with the team at the Nerdery in Chicago to discuss the new BoardLead website

We launched a new BoardLead website!

We designed and built a brand new website for BoardLead. This online platform will allow us to track and manage the program efficiently, bringing huge potential for scale. We’ve already seen this investment in technology improve our day to day.

Welcoming New Staff

This past year our staff grew significantly with the introduction of two new Consultants at Cause Strategy Partners, LLC. Welcome Alexandra Hallock and Erin Connell!

 

Continued Success of New BoardLeaders

What makes BoardLeaders successful?

BoardLeaders are passionate about the nonprofits they serve. Mission passion is our number one most important criteria when facilitating board matches between professionals and nonprofits through BoardLead.

BoardLeaders bring needed skills to their nonprofit boards. Professionals in 2016 came from top companies Barclays, BlackRock, Cushman & Wakefield, Google, LinkedIn, Macquarie, Motorola Solutions, and PwC. They brought with them expertise in finance, accounting, marketing, human resources, technology, and so on.

BoardLeaders are active fundraisers for their organizations. The average give/get commitment from BoardLeaders for 2016 was $6,247. It is an expectation of any professional placed through BoardLead to give at a personally significant amount and meet the giving requirements of their nonprofit.

Professionals in 2016 came from top companies Barclays, BlackRock, Cushman & Wakefield, Google, LinkedIn, Macquarie, Motorola Solutions, and PwC.

 

Looking Ahead

The fun continues in 2017. Most of our corporate partners from 2016 have jumped on board to continue in the program this spring, and some new partners as well. There’s a lot of potential in New York City and Chicago, and we continue to find new ways to work with our nonprofit, foundation, and corporate partners.

 

1 Report: Diversity in the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Community (January 28, 2016); 2010 U.S. Census.

 

Alexandra Hallock
Alexandra Hallock is a Consultant of Cause Strategy Partners, a purpose-driven social enterprise that believes in harnessing the power of business for social good. We are proud to be a Certified B Corporation. BoardLead is our signature board recruitment, placement, training and support program. In 2016, Cause Strategy Partners was named an inaugural honoree of the Best for NYC Award for demonstrated outstanding commitment to the community where we live and work. Learn more by visiting www.causestrategypartners.com.

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