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More From the 'Economic Storm' Summit

November 25, 2008

Last week, regular contributor Michael Seltzer offered a first-hand account from the 'Economic Storm' summit convened by the Foundation Center, the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers, and the United Way of New York City. The three conveners of the summit have just released an executive summary of the proceedings. Here are some highlights:

Today's economic storm is our economic challenge, said keynote speaker Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone. And with Wall Street in trouble, "New York is ground zero."

Don't count on immediate federal assistance, said Linda Gibbs, New York City's deputy mayor for health and human services. Gibbs said Mayor Bloomberg is working to protect Medicaid reimbursement for the neediest households and to attract infrastructure projects that create jobs.

Engage in scenario planning for best and worst outcomes, advised Clara Miller, president and CEO of the New York City-based Nonprofit Finance Fund. Think about how technology can be more effeectively deployed in your organization and the best, most efficient ways to get services to the neediest, added Miller.

Protect, build, and solidify donor relationships, advised New York Secretary of State Lorraine Cortes-Vasquez. Since many companies don't understand the nonprofit sector as they once did, it's imperative to educate them and keep making the case. Cultivate small donors for a reliable revenue stream; the community is full of them.

Foundations are looking for people with sensible and creative ideas that will have the greatest impact, said Phillip Henderson, president of the New York City-based Surdna Foundation. "We'll sustain nonprofits where we have relationships," he added.

The sector will be winnowed, said Paul Light, professor of public service at New York University's Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. There are 900,000 nonprofits in the U.S. -- "too many," said Light -- and at least 100,000 will be forced to close their doors over the next couple of years. Light forsees the sector losing "a big, brand-name nonprofit," and hiring and salary freezes becoming the norm.

Be willing to make uncomfortable changes, said Ronna Brown, president of NYRAG. "We are all on the same side, of doing better for our community, and we need to partner with each other to advocate for and move the sector forward."

To download the summary (3 pages, PDF), click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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