Washington Nonprofits Programs
The organization currently operates with 2.5 employees including our Executive Director, Alison McCaffree, and a Membership & Communications Manager and a Public Policy Associate. Our programs are categorized into 5 areas:
1) Public Policy and Advocacy
2) Group Discounts on 3rd Party Products & Services
3) Information, Research & Referral Services
4) Networking and Leadership Development
5) Capacity Building Services
We undertake these programs so as to provide nonprofit organizations with access to resources, tools and knowledge, to facilitate collaboration, map needs and garner resources, and to advocate on behalf of the sector. If we do those things, then nonprofits will expand their capacity to fulfill their missions and will be recognized for their important place in our communities.
Washington Nonprofits’ programs are in a growth stage because of the organization’s youth. Each program area has been planned carefully and most areas will experience further growth to reach the planned level of activity by the end of WN’s start up phase. The program descriptions below reflect the current state of programs. In total, Washington Nonprofits has 5 program areas.
Our Public Policy and Advocacy Program informs our members about nonprofit-related policy issues and gathers the voice of members on legislative issues. Our Senior Policy Coordinator produces weekly policy briefs on nonprofit topics which allow members to stay abreast of current developments. In addition, WN has offered several trainings on advocacy for nonprofits, including trainings with Nancy Amidei. As part of our program, WN holds monthly Public Policy Forums where policy experts and guest speakers provide updates or information about policy developments that affect nonprofits. An interactive format also allows the Forum to be a listening post for the organization as to what issues are most concerning for nonprofits.
Washington Nonprofits’ Group Discounts Program gives members access to discounts on third party products and services. The discounts that have been negotiated were chosen for their popularity and preexisting use among potential members in order to make the discounts the most relevant. The vendors giving nonprofits discounts through this program include credit card processing, human resources hotline, conference calling and more. WN has carefully crafted the discount program so that members can recover most or all the cost of membership by taking advantage of discounts.
The Information, Research and Referral Services Program keeps our members up to date on current events and emerging trends and practices in the nonprofit sector locally and nationally. Our monthly newsletter features guest columns, advertises upcoming local nonprofit trainings and gatherings, and points members to quality resources. Our members also receive the Northwest Nonprofit Resources Newsletter and the annual Nonprofits in Washington statistical report produced jointly by WN and the Nancy Bell Evans Center at the University of Washington. We will soon be formally linking 501 Common’s Statewide Resource Directory with our website. Currently, WN staff may make informal referrals when told about member’s need for a certain resource; we hope to create a more formal referral program in the future.
Our Networking and Leadership Development Program’s foundation is in our growing network of members. When WN events bring nonprofit leaders together for training or discussion, we deliberately build networking opportunities to the events. Some of the trainings that have been presented have included leadership development components, especially the governance trainings. On March 20th, WN convened nonprofit support organizations from various regions of the State, offered opportunities for networking and, more importantly, collaboration.
Our Capacity Building Program has benefited from multiple partnerships that enable WN to offer the best trainings and workshops. WN has partnered with the Nonprofit Insurance Program (NPIP) to provide trainings on Diversity in the Workplace and Managing the Risks of Social Media in multiple locations throughout the State. Washington Nonprofits itself presented advocacy trainings and successfully held a Nonprofit Board Governance Symposium; we are now making that material accessible throughout the state through a series of governance trainings.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Washington Nonprofits (WN) is strengthening the health of the nonprofit ecosystem throughout Washington. Our state has a large number and diverse set of nonprofit organizations spread over a wide geographic area. This includes over 8,700 501(c)(3) organizations and over 53,000 charities registered with the State of Washington. In addition, Washington has a large number of nonprofit support organizations (over 240).
The geographic challenges, the concentration of resources in certain regions, and the large number of support organizations have produced fragmentation within the nonprofit sector in Washington. In some areas, nonprofits lack access to support services and struggle even to receive training in basic nonprofit practices. Costs and time associated with travel make it difficult for nonprofits in under-served areas to access the training held in resource-rich areas. In the resource-rich areas, nonprofits are often challenged to navigate an overwhelming abundance of uncoordinated resources. Often nonprofits need more than one type of support service but without dialogue and coordination between different types of technical assistance organizations, transitions between services are less efficient and effective. The end result of these challenges is an uncoordinated sector where best practices and good ideas are less likely to be introduced and adopted in other regions.
Furthermore, no effective nonprofit voice represents the nonprofit sector at the legislature. Many organizations are extremely proficient at conducting advocacy on sub-sector issues that affect their missions, but unfortunately sector-wide issues are unlikely to be identified and addressed. Without an effective voice at the legislature, elected officials may fail to understand the unique challenges, benefits and impacts of nonprofits. As a result, laws may be adopted that fail to support nonprofits or are inadvertently detrimental to the interests of nonprofits. As the nonprofit sector is struggling to respond to the challenges of a difficult economy, there has been limited capacity to raise and address proactive nonprofit policy issues.