NextGen:Charity mini-roundup

Here’s my completely non-exhaustive and non-definitive mini-roundup of  the 2010 NextGen:Charity conference where I had the chance to speak last Thursday (with a heavy bias towards the talks I was able to attend).

Some things I’ll keep thinking about long after the conference:

  • Scott Harrison (charity:water) has a knack for storytelling, creativity, and creating a compelling message (including video) from which all nonprofits can learn a LOT.  You shouldn’t try to copy charity:water’s brand and story, but looking at what they’ve done makes it hard to accept the current (sad) state of nonprofit branding and storytelling.
  • Nancy Lublin’s (DoSomething.org) Donald Trump/MilkDuds story reminded me about gumption – that we can always go further than we think we can.
  • Scott Case (Malaria No More) is right that all nonprofits should aim to go out of business (because they’ll solve the problem they set out to solve).  This mindset will open up a world of possibilities, forcing  focus on solving the problem you set out to solve…instead of caring most about the organization you are building.   They’ve said they want to end malarial deaths by 2015.  How’s that for clear and being willing to fail? (plus this viral video wins the prize for gutsiest thing I’ve seen a nonprofit do in a while).
  • Joanne Heyman taught us how the “scarcity fallacy” (scarce resources, scarce creativity, scarce investment) limits our thinking and actions in the sector.  How can resources be scarce, she asked, if we’re a $3 billion sector with more than 1 million nonprofits employing 7% of the nonfarm employed population?
  • Jonathan Greenblatt shared insights on the big trends in our sector – mega (gifts), micro (gifts and connection, like Kiva), mobile (nearly as many mobile phones as people) and markets (growth of impact investing, B corporations).
  • Seth Godin never fails to make me smile when he pulls out his deluxe rubber chicken.  I loved his notion that all the problems that are left are the perfect ones, because all the imperfect ones have been solved.  He also posited that if you’ve never been thrown out of a fundraising meeting, then you’re not pushing hard enough.
  • Aaron Hurst demanded that companies bring as much smarts to their philanthropy as they do to their core business.  I wish I’d been surprised to learn that there’s actually a nonprofit that has a room that they’ve designated as the “painting room” – the one that corporate volunteers come to paint over and over again as their volunteer project.  Maybe if I’m extra-nice to Aaron he’ll invite me to see the room.
  • Ami Dar made a beautiful presentation about a new platform Idealist will be launching – beta in NY – to enable citizen action.  If you’re a connector in NY and this sounds interesting, you should contact Ami.  (he also made me wonder where he got that cool inverted paintbrush font.)
  • And in the closing talk, Ari Teman, one of the conference’s organizers, made me think in a new way about gratitude, made me want to read his book, Effective Gratitude for Organizations and Individuals, and made me want to think harder about the relationship between gratitude and generosity.

I heard great things about lots of the other talks, many of which I was unable to hear.  I’m told there will be videos of all the talks (including mine) available soon…I’ll keep you posted.

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