As a passionate advocate for Detroit I was thrilled when the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) announced their biennial conference would take place in our city. Bringing hundreds of professionals and leaders in the field to take a deep dive into strategy and impact could only bring good things. We offered the conference to our next generation board and one of our leaders, Amanda Fisher, jumped in right away.
The work CEP has spearheaded to measure grantee perception of foundation practices and effectiveness seemed to be the perfect backdrop for the conference theme – ‘Pursuing Results.’ Sessions ranged from research findings regarding barriers to and facilitators of impact, to a discussion with Peter Sims, author of Little Bets, focused on the importance of failure and taking risks. Some of the most important take-a-ways from the conference of course included time between sessions meeting with colleagues, learning small lessons from their stories,and leveraging the homework and experience of large foundations and their program teams.
Amanda attended a session on impact investing and participated in a discussion regarding the critical importance of listening to those who matter most – the intended beneficiaries of our shared work. Serving a family rooted in the Jewish tradition we focus not on charity or even philanthropy, but on tzedakah – the word in Hebrew for justice. The efforts of our partners in communities to strengthen and empower children and families in need is truly the embodiment of justice. Listening to and empowering the ideas of those who face the daily challenges we seek to address with our mission was highlighted well by Steven McCormick, President of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, when he shared his belief during the closing plenary that foundations don’t do the work, our partners and those inside the challenges do the hard work every day.
Throughout the conference I heard the term nonprofit over and over again. My discomfort with the term continues to grow. Why are we defined by what we are not? Given the for-profit sector is defined by what it values most, shouldn’t our sector have a similar proactive name? Not one session at the conference focused on how organizations in our sector focus on not making a profit. Instead we are focused on sustainability, seeking results and making an impact. For me, the conference underscored the resolution I made last December to no longer use the term non-profit and instead use the term ‘for-impact’ to describe our beloved sector, its organizations, its leaders and our shared mission to bring justice to our communities.
So, my thanks go to the Center for Effective Tzedakah and to all the impact executives who attended the conference for what they provided our fair city of Detroit while they were in town.
If you would like to learn more about the Center for Effective Philanthropy, their website is www.effectivephilanthropy.org.