“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
We often get questions from donors or colleagues about the best way to support nonprofit organizations through donations, grants and other giving. There are several perspectives on the most effective strategies – planning grants, endowments, capital campaign support, to name a few–and each approach has merit depending on the specific needs of a nonprofit organization at any given time. However, there is one investment strategy that is tried, true and timely no matter when it is implemented – investing in people.
Business and political leaders in Mississippi and across the country are recognizing the value of investing in workforce development and workforce training for the private sector. The Benjamin Franklin quote perfectly illustrates why individual donors and the philanthropic community as a whole should look seriously at investing in the development of the nonprofit workforce. We are all concerned about the potential return on the dollars we invest in the community through donations and grants to nonprofits. We are all committed to supporting long-term, sustainable change in our communities. One of the best ways to achieve both is by investing in something that will “pay the best interest” – the knowledge, skills and capacity of the current and future nonprofit workforce.
The Phil Hardin Foundation, a private foundation based in Meridian, recently announced a $122,000 grant to Millsaps College to establish a summer internship program that will provide paid internship positions at numerous nonprofit organizations in and around Meridian. One of the goals of this effort is to help college students identify “suitable and meaningful work opportunities” in Mississippi that allow them to use their skills and talents to make a difference in communities. This program will introduce several students to job options as they build valuable professional and life skills over the summer.
There are also exciting developments in building the bandwidth for nonprofit professionals in the state. For years, the Mississippi Center for Nonprofits and Mississippi Association of Grantmakers worked to support the needs of their memberships – nonprofit organizations in the case of MCN, grantmaking organizations in the case of MAG. Recognizing that grantee and grantor represent two sides of the same coin, these groups embarked on a journey to explore how these two sides might work more effectively, together. Funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, this journey will culminate soon in a groundbreaking reimagining of these groups and their work – the Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy. This new organization “supports learning, growth, development, and collaboration” among the nonprofit workforce aimed at advancing “solutions to complex and challenging issues” in our communities. Other entities have watched eagerly as the Alliance was built, and we are excited to have been part of the process which could model nonprofit and grantmaker relationships across the country.
This shift toward workforce development is crucial in that it places the focus squarely on investing in the people who are doing the work we care so much about. We still have more ground to cover and more work to do. It is imperative that we have well trained, well prepared and well-compensated professionals working together to create more possibility and expand opportunity in the state. In order to do that, we have to invest in programs that offer the types of training experience nonprofit professionals need to be effective.
If you want to learn more about the work the Community Foundation is doing to support nonprofit workforce development, contact us at (601) 974-6044.