A Look Back, And a Look Ahead

January 16, 2020 / Comments Off on A Look Back, And a Look Ahead

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MNA had a wonderful 2019! Before we get too far into 2020, I want to take a minute to thank you for being part of our story. As a member, partner, or supporter you are integral to our work. I hope you’ll take just a minute to celebrate the accomplishments of 2019 and also look ahead at the 2020 roadmap. Read more…

First, the renewal of Montana’s endowment tax credit in 2019. What an accomplishment! Thank you to so many nonprofit and foundation leaders who came together to support this effort. And – it was not the only achievement of the 2019 Legislative Session. We successfully defended the nonprofit sector from some truly weird stuff – and I don’t think we’re done. In 2020 it will be important for all of us to meet with policymakers in our communities to understand what’s on their minds and tell the story of our work in advance of the 2021 Session. Listening is a great starting point for a productive relationship.

The most significant programmatic change at MNA in 2019 was the launch of the Nonprofit Innovation program. Our Director of Innovation, Adam Jespersen, has been a gift to all of us at MNA as a teammate, and to the sector given the thoughtful and systemic way he approaches innovation. In 2020 Adam is leading our work on financial leadership. Our six-part webinar series is geared for practicality. We are also working with UM to design a Business Modeling for Nonprofits curriculum. This will be followed by a cohort for those who want to extend their learning into practical application. The innovation work we’re doing is cutting edge, not only in the fifteen counties in our pilot area, but throughout Montana and our national network. A shout out to Headwaters Foundation who provided the seed money for this project.

Our Next Generation leadership work continues. I’m proud of the quality of our work in this area, and that we address not only workforce development, but board development. Thank you to the Washington Foundation and Oro Y Plata for supporting this work, which is designed to ensure the nonprofit future is strong as longtime professionals and board volunteers transition out, making way for new leadership. In 2020 we’re going to chunk the Next Gen curriculum into pieces and offer it not only through workshops but as a webinar series focused on practical skills/tools like “Onboarding Young Professionals”, “Workplace Conflict”, and “Recruiting Remote Workers”.

Two highlights in our Next Gen Leadership work:
• Our board basics event, So you Wanna Be a Board Member, has been a hit. Could it be because we meet at the brewery? Possibly. We’ve hosted this successfully in several rural communities with folks who have never been on boards.
• I’m proud of our service-learning partnership with UM. We developed service-learning toolkits both for higher education faculty and nonprofits. We also sponsored a fellowship program for faculty through which they could get a mini-grant to include service-learning in their curriculum. We know when college and high school students participate in service-learning they are more likely to work and volunteer with nonprofits later in life.

As a next step in professional and organizational development, we will be offering credentialing and online learning in 2020. This is important to the incoming workforce and is a great strategy for most parts of Montana, assuming internet access is available. MNA will always prioritize showing up in communities in person, but online learning certainly makes us more accessible to a wider audience.

In May 2020 we are excited to launch MNA Catalyst, a six-month nonprofit leadership program. We begin with a three-day leadership immersion, followed by four months of coaching and peer mentoring, culminating with graduation at the MNA Conference. Participants in Catalyst will be able to attend almost all MNA 2020 training events – including the Conference – at no charge beyond the fee for Catalyst. Thank you to the M.J. Murdock Trust, AMBWest Philanthropies and First Interstate Bank Foundation coming together to support this effort which has been years in the making.

MNA is exploring how our Professional and Organizational Development (POD) program – actually our whole organization – can be more inclusive. This year two native nonprofit leaders said yes to coming onto the MNA Board. This is a starting place for MNA as we embark on our work internally – both as a staff and board – to become a support organization for all of Montana.

For the first six months of 2020 we will be consumed with Census 2020. Our focus continues to be ensuring nonprofits are aware of and planning for their role in getting out a fair, complete and accurate count and offering mini-grants for events and activities that support a full count in the thirty hardest to count communities. We are prepared for an intense six-month period. We’ve had support from several foundations interested in investing in Census. Thank you, Montana Community Foundation, for leading the way. And thank you to Montana Healthcare Foundation and Northwest Area Foundation for supporting a strong count in Montana.

And, then we have business as usual: the 2020 MNA Conference in Helena; the MNA health benefits plan which covers about 1200 people right now; Get out the Vote; webinars, affinity groups, workshops in communities large and small throughout the state, Kaleidoscope, and more for our 2020 POD program; the MNA Wage and Benefit report; and responding to the needs and requests for information from our 600 nonprofit members and 100 affiliates. We are grateful to Oro Y Plata, O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation, and the Steele Reese Foundation for helping us reach the most rural corners of the state where there is less opportunity for learning.

We are busy. But from where I sit, MNA is as strong as we’ve ever been. While we appreciate and need foundation support, we’re increasing earned income streams to strengthen our long-term sustainability. We have a long way to go, but our staff team is incredible, and our Board is more diverse and representative of Montana than we’ve been in my tenure at MNA. It’s an exciting time to be part of MNA.

As we welcome the new year, I hope you know how much our team appreciates working with and for you. Montana’s nonprofit community has a vibrant, effective, and evolving professional association and support organization in MNA, and you are part of that. Thank you, and very best to you and yours in 2020.

Liz Moore, Executive Director