Shared Voices: 2018 Nonprofit Leadership Conference

by Support KC

Nearly 200 nonprofit leaders from across the region gathered last Monday to learn and network at the 2018 Nonprofit Leadership Conference held at the UMKC Bloch School of Management. The conference focused on identifying an organization’s life stage, building nonprofit capacity, and helping organizations sustain mature development.  Support KC was proud to be a sponsor of this fifth annual conference presented by the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership and Nonprofit Missouri.

“All good things must come to an end.”

You’ve probably heard this proverb about the natural decline of things – of experiences, ideas, even organizations.  But is this always the case?  What if a nonprofit organization can continue to take on new life after its natural life cycle?

The conference theme “Nonprofit Life Cycle Stages” was built upon the work of Dr. Susan Kenny Stevens who created a framework by which to assess or diagnose an organization’s condition and plan for organizational development.  Dr. David Renz, Director of the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, opened the conference with a keynote presentation on how nonprofit organizations advance across each life cycle stage.  Renz traced the path an organization moving from an idea through start-up, growth, maturity, decline, turnaround phases.  Renz explained that organizations who enter the mature phase experience vitality and stability, along with continued relevancy to those they serve.  But as organizations move toward decline and beyond, there is still an opportunity for regeneration and new growth.

As the nonprofit life cycle framework depicts, an organization will only move toward and sustain maturity with a particular set of structures firmly in place to support its mission.  Strong management practices, administrative systems, financial resources, and governance practices are shown as the necessary pillars to sustain programs that have measurable impact.  Like the legs of table, if one of the core supports is weakened, the surface wobbles.  And if multiple supports are compromised, the table may risk collapse.

The conference also featured diverse sets of breakout sessions that gave participants an opportunity to learn from other nonprofit leaders and support professionals on strengthening their organizations.  Session topics included board advocacy, fundraising, tax reform implications, risk management, nonprofit compensation trends and more.  No matter their organizations’ life cycle stage, leaders were able to participate, ask questions and plan their next steps for organizational development.

“It was great to have so many from the region’s nonprofit community take advantage of this excellent opportunity to learn, network, and support each other,” said Dr. David Renz. “The partnerships among Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, Nonprofit Missouri and Support KC brought together an exceptional set of resources to continue to enhance capacity and provide support to the region’s nonprofit community.”

Participants also attended sessions that were tailored specifically for organizations’ nonprofit life cycle stage.  Debra Box, President and CEO of Support KC, and Wim van Klinken, Senior Fellow & Adjunct Instructor with Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, facilitated the Start up to Growth Life Cycle Stagesession, where nonprofit professionals gathered to discuss reflections from the day and the resources needed to move toward maturity.  The desire to become skilled collaborators was a common reflection that participants mentioned during this session.  In under-resourced and dynamic environments, nonprofit leaders said that successful collaboration could help them build scale and agility to maximize their impact.

Building nonprofit capacity by deploying nonprofit support services is central to our work at Support KC, making our sponsorship of the 2018 Nonprofit Leadership Conference a natural fit.  Support KC’s core services of accounting and fiscal management, database management, fund development and governance and strategy have served over 160 nonprofit organizations across the nonprofit life cycle stages this year.  We are grateful to be able to provide essential business and development support to organizations so they can focus on their mission and impact.

Support KC’s vision of high-performing sustainable nonprofit community is made possible by strong organizations and strategic collaborations like those demonstrated last week.  We’re honored to be a part of this work and hope to see you at next year’s conference!

To learn more about uniting the voices of the nonprofit sector, visit Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership and Nonprofit Missouri online.