Monday, June 30, 2008

Media Survey Results

Thanks to everyone that has completed our Nonprofit Public Relations/Media Survey! We have gathered some great feedback that we are using to plan our September program on Nonprofits and Media which will be hosted by the Leatherstocking Area Executives Association in Oneonta. The Leatherstocking AEA would like to invite all South Central NY group members to attend the program from 12-2pm on Wednesday September 17th (location TBD).

One of the main concerns expressed in the survey was a lack of time. Many responses cited the lack of time that nonprofit staff have to focus on their media coverage and the time-crunch that reporters face as well. Hopefully our panel participants (representatives from local media outlets) will be able to engage in discussion with us about how we can all get the most out of the limited time investments that we can make.

Organizations seemed particularly interested in learning how to create situations where both the media and nonprofits could benefit. Many respondents had creative ideas about how to cultivate these win-win relationships, and even more expressed interest in discovering how to do so. One response summed up the sentiment expressed by many, saying that the organization could provide "Great stories, great visuals, great sources and great style. When they find us, they'll love us-- but we're out of their regular radar range... I'm workin' on it!"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"The Power of Measuring Social Benefits"

Social spending has always been a controversial topic. There have been countless debates at the federal and state level on the allocation of funding to social programs. Recent controversy over the tax-exempt status of nonprofits and the backlash on state funding here in NY are just two more examples of the troubled politics of social spending. We vote for government officials based on their stance on social programs; it's clearly a pervasive issue. That's where "The Power of Measuring Social Benefits" comes in.

The MacArthur Foundation in Chicago, Illinois has launched a $35 million dollar grant project which will fund research initiatives that are engaging in social cost-benefit analyses of domestic social policy. During the first 18 months of the project, the Foundation has already awarded $12 million to these analyses. The Foundation's hope is that policymakers and politicians will base their creation and support of social programs on the evidence that sound research has produced rather than on personal and party politics. Good social policy benefits not just the recipients of assistance, but society as a whole as well.

The Perry Preschool study inspired this focus on cost-benefit analysis. The Perry study, which began in 1962, was an analysis of the costs and benefits of early childhood education which showed that for each dollar invested by the government into a "carefully designed preschool experience" $16 was paid back through taxes and an individual's contributions to society. The MacArthur Foundation's goal is to saturate the policy arena with cost-benefit analyses in order to create the best social policy possible.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Beyond Charity": The Nonprofit Impact

Here is an interesting report on the D.C. nonprofit community that focuses on measuring return on investment in order to show how valuable nonprofits are. Not only does the report talk about the economic impact of the organizations, it also focuses on the way nonprofits encourage civic engagement and generate social capital. The report uses programs to illustrate how the organizations save society money by focusing on prevention, finding untapped potential, and by utilizing volunteers and in-kind donations.

It’s no surprise to those of us working with nonprofits that the return on investment is significant and strengthens communities. However, many people have never considered thinking about, or evaluating, nonprofits in terms of their return on investment. Next time someone asks what your organization does for the region, you can provide a reply that goes deeper than your programming; remind them of the social capital generated, the way you maximize resources, and the money your nonprofit is saving them!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Massachusetts Creates New Position to Support the Arts

Of recent interest to arts organizations, with implications for all nonprofits, is the unique position that Massachusetts has created as part of its efforts to strengthen the arts sector. The new “creative economy” director will work to connect arts and cultural organizations, both nonprofit and for-profit groups, to the resources that they need in order to help them grow and develop.

Massachusetts sees that the arts sector is a valuable part of the state’s economy and is willing to invest the money needed to support it by creating this new position. Over 100,000 people are employed by arts and cultural organizations in Massachusetts and the sector creates billions of dollars of economic activity within the state.

This is exciting news for all nonprofits, especially those involved with the arts. Massachusetts has realized how vital it is for state and local government to pay attention to, and support, these organizations. The economic impact of nonprofits is not going unrealized; hopefully the growing awareness of the creative economy’s impact will lead to more state support here in New York as well. For more on the role of the state, check out the report titled, “States and the Creative Economy” put together by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.