by Cindy Wagner/Olean Times Herald
St. BONAVENTURE — More than 120 nonprofit leaders, staff and board members gathered Wednesday for the area’s eighth annual Nonprofit Networking Day — and network they did.
All started the morning at St. Bonaventure University’s Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at the event hosted by the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation.
“We’re here to network with other community foundations … what they’re doing,” said Leslie Haggstrom, board member of the Allegany County Area Foundation. “We’re here to learn what other nonprofits are doing and what they’re looking for.”
Megan Taylor, of Interfaith Caregivers in Olean, was there to gather “new insights” from the event’s speakers.
“They always seem to choose people that are inspiring,” she said.
One of those people was Michael Hill, who was introduced before his keynote speech, “Nonprofit Crystal Ball: What does the future hold?” by Karen Buchheit, executive director of the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation.
“It’s homecoming for me today,” said Hill, president of the Chautauqua Institution and a graduate of SBU. He was also the second executive director of the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts and is currently on the university’s board of trustees.
“This (nonprofit) sector represents the heart and soul of our communities,” Hill opened. “We need to be informed by data … not to predict the future, but to shape it.”
Hill named three things that are, or should be, on the priority list of all nonprofits today: strategy, diversity and service.
“The key to strategy is choice,” Hill said. “Real strategies instruct you on not just what you should do, but also what you won’t do.” He added that’s a different take on strategy for most nonprofits, who tend to typically focus only on their capabilities.
He gave the example of libraries, whose strategy as a central resource for knowledge had to shift along with the advent of the internet.
Many worried there would no longer be a place for libraries. But smart library leaders transitioned their mission into creating a gathering place, a place for community action and engagement.
“Their strategies evolved as their constituent’s needs changed,” Hill explained.
Tina Dalton, library director Cuba Circulating Library, knew what Hill was talking about.
“I came out to meet other professionals,” said Dalton, who was there to collaborate with other nonprofits for programs and fundraising. “We collaborate with Cuba Cultural Center, the Chamber of Commerce, the hospital, and we’d like to reach out to the local areas and see what’s possible.”
Diversity is a difficult topic and Hill said “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” He quoted Shaun King, a guest speaker at Chautauqua Institution and a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement: “If the primary people fighting against a problem are its victims, there’s little movement.” Hill explained that nonprofits have a role and a responsibility to keep seeking until “we find ways to bring everyone along,” he implored.
In hopes of adding diversity to the staffs of local nonprofits was Patsy Cradduck, a pre-vocational rehabilitation supervisor at InTandem, formerly the ReHabilitation Center in Olean. She said Monday she was hoping to spread the word about InTandem, which serves those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through the organization’s vocational volunteer program, clients are placed with local groups that want diverse volunteers.
After the keynote address, Nonprofit Networking Day attendees broke off into workshops for the morning, a buffet lunch and more workshops in the afternoon. Programming topics included matching an organization’s mission with that of potential funders with Kate Heidinger, director of development at Compeer; special event planning with Beth Palumbo, director of marketing at St. Bonaventure University; how to successfully manage social media with John Jiloty, vice president for social media and content at The Martin Group; and how U.S. tax policy changes will affect an organization and it’s donors, with Kelly Lent-Paul, certified planner with Fox Financial.
St. Bonaventure and the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce were co-sponsors of the annual event.