We begin by reflecting on themes of the past and what we believe will be important themes this year.
It’s an understatement to say that this will be a consequential year given the election, the economy, and the state of world affairs. Despite the complexity of our time, though, we remain hopeful for the resilience and impact of the nonprofit sector.
Our colleagues amaze us, and we are inspired by their continued creativity for meeting deep community needs. One of our resolutions last year was “For nonprofits to be fully staffed, and for those staff members to feel connected and rewarded.” We continue to believe in this need, but we have seen signs of improvement. An article by the Chronicle of Philanthropy in October 2023 discusses the growing trend of hiring Co-CEOs, as a step toward improved work-life balance.
Chief executives alone, cannot make these types of decisions for their organizations, which brings us to our first resolution.
- Support Your Chief Executives.
This may sound like a given, but it certainly isn’t one in practice. Sometimes chief executives need to articulate what support means to them, but sometimes it’s the board who works at odds against, rather than in constructive partnership with, their chief. It is stunning to hear about a board who takes an adversarial stance against a successful leader because of a minor mistake, or worse, a misunderstanding. I hope 2024 brings new levels of understanding and awareness for boards and the importance of their chief executive relationship.
- Stand For Your Mission.
Advocacy (see column parts one and two here) is allowed by 501(c)(3) nonprofits regarding education and outreach, not formal lobbying on policy or campaigning for candidates. With so much at stake in this election year, boards and senior staff leaders should work collaboratively to ensure that elected officials and public administrators are engaged to share the impact of your mission and the stewardship of tax dollars. BoardSource has a toolkit for nonprofits to guide this process.
- No Tolerance For Hate.
Headline after headline documents a story of hate – racial, ethnic, religious, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, and other facets of life. The nonprofit sector has a unique role to build bridges and to deepen understanding in American life. Collectively, we’ve watched college presidents of some of the most prestigious nonprofit organizations struggle with the question of hate speech. We must be clear on what is and what is not acceptable, and we must focus on eliminating hate-related language, behaviors, and policies. In 2021, our friend and colleague Laura Chu Stokes wrote a guest column about Asian hate and how to take stand.
We offer our gratitude for all the joys and accomplishments of 2023 and hope that 2024 provides opportunities for connection and success.