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VOL. 126 | NO. 79 | Friday, April 22, 2011

Nonprofit Excellence Gears Up for Conference

By Aisling Maki

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The Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence will offer the nonprofit community a full day’s worth of respected industry speakers, panel discussions, breakout sessions and networking opportunities during its sixth annual conference Wednesday.

The Alliance, which serves nonprofits in more than 30 counties in Eastern Arkansas, Northern Mississippi and West Tennessee, will host “Giving, Grants & Goodwill: The New Face of Philanthropy,” from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Clark Opera Memphis Center, 6745 Wolf River Parkway.

“You’re going to hear from some of the best of the best in the field,” said Nancy McGee, executive director of the Alliance, which offers workshops and information and training sessions year-round to its roughly 200 member organizations. “It’s a great opportunity to meet people who are coming into Memphis for the day and are very knowledgeable and can share wonderful information and expertise with our nonprofits.”

Last year’s keynote speaker was Sonal Shah, White House director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

“She visited with a few nonprofits here that were doing some innovative things, a couple of Alliance members that included Porter-Leath and Youth Villages, which the White House has recognized as an organization that’s doing some really innovative things,” McGee said.

This year, Rip Rapson, president and CEO of the Detroit-based Kresge Foundation, a $3.1 billion private, national foundation, will deliver the keynote address, focused on philanthropic opportunities and responsibilities in times of civil redirection.

Rapson, an attorney and expert in urban policy who joined Kresge in 2006, is leading the foundation through a multi-year expansion of its grant-making to improve the quality of life for poverty-stricken and underserved communities.

McGee said many Memphis organizations – including Christian Brothers University, Christ Community Health Services, the Memphis Zoo, the National Civil Rights Museum, Opera Memphis and Youth Villages – have benefitted from funding overseen by the Kresge Foundation.

In all, $11 million has been allocated locally.

“We are so pleased and honored to have Mr. Rapson as our keynote speaker, a phenomenal leader in community development and representing an organization that has impacted so many lives in the U.S. and internationally for more than eight decades,” McGee said. “Moreover, we are extremely fortunate to have a wealth of industry experts representing the national landscape who will also be a part of our program as well as lead our breakout sessions.”

Other conference speakers will include David Thompson, vice president of public policy for the National Council of Nonprofits in Washington, who will discuss the benefits and downfalls of contracting with government entities; Dr. Cynthia Gibson, senior vice president of The Philanthropic Initiative in Boston, who will talk about what donors want; and Ivye Allen, president of the Foundation for the Mid-South, a regional community foundation based in Jackson, Miss., whose speech is titled “New Phase of Philanthropy and Measuring Impact.”

Expert-led breakout sessions cover lobbying, volunteer leadership, communication strategies, earned income strategies and advice about connecting with your legislator, with the last being led by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis.

Several local funders, including the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation, will participate in an afternoon panel discussion.

Most of the Mid-South’s more than 3,000 nonprofit organizations have been forced to implement cost-cutting changes, struggling through the challenges of the economic downturn, which resulted in slower corporate giving and prompted foundations to take a closer look at bottom lines.

McGee said small and mid-sized nonprofits have typically faced more financial challenges recently.

Early-bird registration for the conference ends Tuesday at noon.

Visit www.npexcellence.org to register.

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