The Association of Fundraising Professionals (“AFP”) and Stanford Social Innovation Review (“SSIR”) have been holding the Nonprofit Management Institute for the last nine years. This year’s theme was on how to scale social impact. The conference hosted numerous speakers with high credentials from September 9th to 10th at Stanford University Alumni Center in Palo Alto.
The actual networking began in the evening before the two-day conference at a nearby hotel poolside. Executives from diverse nonprofit organizations gathered to hear what other organizations were commonly facing. In our table, there was an organization from Colorado which provides legal advisory around water rights as the State of Colorado’s major issue is to tackle water deficiency problem. Another interesting executive was a quilt museum based in California. Since quilting is an antique leisure predominantly for low-income housewives, the quilt museum was having trouble to secure funding to sustain. It was a quiet and peaceful evening where we didn’t have to rush into exchanging business cards every five minutes trying to explain what I do to one person to another over and over again.
The following two day was intense but worthwhile. Some speakers were truly inspiring to address the most pressing issues the participants were involved with. As for me, there were some sessions I anticipated to be helpful in solving issues that Agora was facing as well. However, the sessions I had the highest expectation disappointed me the most. Although speakers with notable backgrounds were very organized to layout the framework to perceive scalability of social impact, they did not have the panacea.
During the lunch hour, AFP arranged several discussion groups to choose from. I wanted to be part of “Innovative Financial Models for Nonprofits” group, but as the table was already filled up I joined “Fundraising for Scalability” table. It was a great opportunity to interact with other nonprofit managers who were facing challenges to scale and family foundations which were searching for organizations to invest in. I came to realize how so many nonprofits confront similar issues: retaining talent, restructuring board members, and measuring impact due to constraint in financial resources.
There is 1.5mn registered nonprofit organizations in the US. Compared to South Korea, the entry barrier to incorporate a nonprofit entity seems fairly easier here. Nevertheless, to grow and expand proven solutions into other regions is another hurdle the nascent organizations need to overcome. Although the speakers on stage not elaborate on specific measures, interaction with other participants in the Nonprofit Management Institute reassured me that we are not alone.