Non-profits tackle the 21st Century

As non-profit organizations navigate the 21st Century, what new challenges do they face? How do they remain viable and effective with changing financial realities? How do they assure future success beyond relying on fundraising and grants?

Recently, the Victoria Foundation partnered with Victoria-based Scale Collaborative to help local non-profits learn new ways to navigate these new waters.

21st Century Non-Profits brought together executives, board members and senior staff from non-profit organizations throughout Greater Victoria for a series of workshops geared towards inspiring a culture shift. Participants looked at ways to strengthen the stability of their organizations in order to maintain and increase lasting impacts, by looking at areas such as corporate partnerships, financing options, real estate and enterprising.

To get a better sense of how this project worked to support non-profits and the amazing community work they do, we asked a couple of the participants to share their experiences and speak to why they felt this program was a good fit.

Britton Jacob-Schram (left), Grants Coordinator, Sierra Club of BC Foundation

Why were you interested in participating in the 21st C Non-Profits program?
As a mid-size grassroots environmental charity, Sierra Club BC was looking for best practices and expert opinion in evaluating (and possibly scaling) our various programs and campaigns. In geographical reach and impact these vary for our organization, from regional public engagement sessions on transitioning away from fossil fuels to K-8 environmental education delivered at the provincial level. The opportunity to share in a learning environment with other charitable non-profits, which would then be complemented by one-on-one coaching sessions with one of the Scale Collaborative coaches, was very appealing.

What was the number one concept or idea you took away from the program?
We found great value in being walked through concepts of proper risk management—understanding that successful scaling depends on a certain amount of risk acceptance—and the degree to which an organization (at all levels, from staff to directors of the board) must be “culturally-ready” to strategize in order to effectively manage the risks necessary for S.M.A.R.T. growth. The number one concept we took away is that scaling can be either bolstered or obstructed by organizational culture—values and philosophy are the limiting factor.  

Why are the concepts and approaches in this program important for non-profits?

Many of our staff members have backgrounds rooted in the sciences—biologists, forest ecologists, political scientists, environmental educators. These are wonderful skillsets to have when you’re raising public awareness around, say, environmental impacts of large-scale hydrological dams, or why BC should ban old-growth logging; but, it doesn’t mean we’re necessarily specialists in effectively analyzing a program’s impacts against financial trajectories, margins, and associated endgame strategies. The cohort offered us invaluable consultation on all of the above, explaining at a high-level how to approach all of this without selling our values down the river.

Sarah Crawley (right), Manager, Human Resources and Quality Assurance, Island Community Mental Health

Why were you interested in participating in the 21st C Non-Profits program?

I was interested in learning more about increasing ICMH’s impact in our community and scaling strategies to accomplish this.  

What was the number one concept or idea you took away from the program?

I took away a different perspective regarding opportunity. No matter how small or large the organization, there is an opportunity to boost impact and thrive in the community.  

Why are the concepts and approaches in this program important for non-profits?

It was a great opportunity to work with local non-profits and learn more about recent changes in the sector. The coaching services addressed social enterprise opportunities, leveraging assets and financial diversification opportunities.

 

The Victoria Foundation is now exploring ways to continue to provide these opportunities in the near future.