Foundation and nonprofit association team for ‘Superconference’


The financial collapse that created the Great Recession was especially crippling to the nonprofit sector, but in the aftermath, new partnerships and links have formed, undergirding specialty strengths.

The upcoming annual two-day conference of the Michigan Nonprofit Association in October is now called Superconference 2013 because the Council of Michigan Foundations also will hold its annual conference in Grand Rapids on the same dates. Members of the two groups will converge Oct. 16 for joint networking and speakers in some part focused on effectively engaging an entire community from boomers through millennials.

Two local women are responsible for the day of partnership, Jacqueline Taylor and Bridget Clark Whitney, who are co-chairing the Michigan Nonprofit Association annual meeting. More than 600 participants are expected to attend.

The conference theme is on how nonprofits catalyze community prosperity, said Taylor, consultant at Pondera Advisors LLC and a member of the MNA board of directors.

Nonprofits are an economic driver throughout the entire nation but especially in Michigan and specifically in West Michigan, Taylor said.

“One of every 10 jobs really is in the nonprofit world,” she said. “When you think about that, and the economic impact nonprofits have for all of us and the thousands of volunteer hours — how that changes society and marshals all that energy to give back to make this a better world — nonprofits are absolutely vital to a great and thriving community.”

Taylor, an Athena Award winner, discussed how West Michigan nonprofits are recovering from the impacts of the economic recession, saying that although budgets were tight, volunteers continued to invest in the community by investing in nonprofits. Clark Whitney is executive director of Kids’ Food Basket and an MNA board member.

Taylor noted social media can be a major part of inspiring such investment, especially for the upcoming generation of leaders that practically live on social media. Technology, as important as it is to modern nonprofits, however, cannot replace the internal drive of a generous heart, she said.

“It’s a form of understanding that giving back and raising the level of success for every individual provides an opportunity,” she said. “Certainly, education is critical in that. Entrepreneurs are critical in that. But it’s how we use those skills and opportunity to really engage and build and free the individual to be the best that they can be.”

Based on her work with many nonprofits, Taylor said there was a common underlying theme to many of the issues nonprofits are facing, and that theme is collaboration. Nonprofits that can collaborate with community groups, businesses and other nonprofits without losing their identity and mission are the ones she feels are becoming more successful.

“I feel that this is a segment that is so important, both economically and human,” she said.

“We help each other through collaborative efforts in a way that will advance organization silos and at the same time understand the importance of each of the missions of the organizations.”

The conference is set for Oct. 15-16 at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids. Keynote speakers will be Geoff Rochester, chief marketing officer for The Nature Conservancy, and Frans Johansson, CEO for The Medici Group and author of “The Medici Effect.” Workshops on such topics as nonprofit development, technology and funding are planned.

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