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VOL. 132 | NO. 151 | Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Pearl and Mel Shaw

Money is Not Enough

By Mel and Pearl Shaw

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Nonprofits play a critical role across the Mid-South. They represent, serve and advocate for a great diversity of individuals, families and causes. They improve the quality of life, generate innovations, and give voice to the challenges unseen and needs still unmet. They are joined in this work by foundations and corporations who provide money, resources, connections and technical assistance.

Memphis is the second-most philanthropic community in the country. We give as individuals, churches and organizations. We are also fortunate to be home to Fortune 500 companies and generous philanthropic foundations. These corporations and foundations make a meaningful impact in just about every corner of our city.

And in many cases it is through the work of nonprofits that foundations and corporations live into their philanthropic missions and demonstrate their social responsibility: Nonprofits are one way that the actual work gets done.

Corporations, foundations and nonprofits are natural partners. Yet there is always the reality that nonprofits seek funding, and corporations and foundations seek opportunities to give and invest. This is one of many dynamics involved in the solicitation and granting of funds. Other dynamics include who gets to define the impact a nonprofit makes; how many nonprofits our community needs; and the reasons behind why some organizations are funded and others aren’t.

Foundations and corporations will comment about nonprofits that lack visionary leadership, sustainability and business plans, and boards that fundraise. Nonprofits will comment on inequities in giving, changing guidelines and limited timeframes to demonstrate “impact.”

Our comments can keep us from looking at the bigger picture. What does our community need to thrive? What investments and innovations are required to move the needle on poverty, homelessness and hunger? Are we giving enough to create change, or just enough to say we gave?

Are we as funders giving to organizations based on a checklist of causes we need to support for purposes of brand and image? Do we understand the many community needs and the multiplicity of organizations addressing them? How do we help address issues of capacity, technology and general infrastructure? These impact service delivery, research and advocacy but often go underfunded. Finally, how do we define equity in giving and what do we require in return?

Are we as nonprofits asking for enough investment? Are we asking enough funders? And, are we asking ourselves the right questions? Do we need to innovate? Do we need to merge? Do we need to change leadership or revise what collaboration and partnership looks like? Are we seeking to keep our doors open when the funds we receive could yield a greater impact if invested elsewhere? Is our focus our own organization or the people we serve? How do we balance the need to attract top talent with the reality of limited budgets and resources?

These are some of the hard questions that nonprofits and funders grapple with. We are all focused on philanthropy: the love of mankind. We need each other. And our communities need us. Together we are growing a greater Memphis.

Mel and Pearl Shaw, owners of fundraising consultancy firm Saad&Shaw, can be reached at 901-522-8727 or saadandshaw.com.

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