top of page

What If 2019

The Impact Foundry is an organization dedicated to supporting nonprofits throughout the greater Sacramento region with resources, advice, and experts. And each year they host the What If Conference, bringing together hundreds of representatives from the social sector for a day of workshops, speeches, networking, and more. I was thrilled to go for the third time and am excited to share some of what I learned at the conference!

The charity mindset is holding us back

If you haven’t seen Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk, go right now to watch it. His keynote speech at the conference inspired us all to reevaluate the mindsets that are holding the social sector back. Some of my favorite takeaways:

  • We will never be able to truly solve these issues unless we can successfully recruit and retain top talent...we need to destigmatize competitive salaries for nonprofit staff. A willingness to “do good” is no longer enough to join the social sector when there are so many social benefit companies in the for-profit world.

  • “People yearn to be asked to do the most they can do, for causes they care about.” Pallotta pioneered multi-day fundraising cycling and walk events and says we aren’t making big enough asks of our supporters.

  • An average American sees 1 message promoting health & human service causes for every 479 messages for something else. If we truly want to increase giving in America (taking market share from the for-profit sector), we need to invest in widespread quality marketing.

  • In a culture where nonprofits aren’t allowed to fail for fear of losing funding, we stifle innovation and stunt growth. We cannot find the best solutions if we aren’t able to experiment and learn.

Dan also has a great initiative, Charity Defense Council, working to counteract misconceptions about the industry. Check out their work!

Current trends in philanthropy

This session, led by local consultant Jessica Hubbard, was full of interesting statistics and expert analysis to open the discussion on current trends and projections. We covered everything from Donor Advised Funds to generational changes in giving to implications of the new tax law. Here are some of my aha moments:

  • Philanthropy is increasingly top-heavy, with fewer donors giving a higher percentage. Nonprofits should be aware of the impact on power dynamics and perspectives when there are fewer voices at the top of the giving pyramid.

  • Diversity in our sector is lagging behind. Racial demographics of donors today match those of the USA population 25 years ago.

  • Technology-enabled giving is growing quickly, but only 8% of giving is currently online (an example of the impact of having very few donors giving very large amounts, which is typically not online).

  • Lines are blurring between the nonprofit sector and others with the rise of impact investing, B-corps, social enterprises, and traditional companies with socially conscious sections.

  • Donors are becoming more comfortable with nonprofits engaging in the political sphere, supporting advocacy in line with the organization’s (and donor’s) mission.

Causes unite us

OK this is something I knew going into the event. But I certainly walked away from the conference with a renewed sense of purpose and excitement for the future of the nonprofit sector. We heard from large financial institution competitors coming together to make a deep impact on the local community. We heard from an innovative tech start-up focused solely on creating solutions in the homeless sphere. We shared stories, laughed, and dreamed together. I am hopeful for the future of our community and our world based on this group of several hundred nonprofit leaders, staff, sponsors, vendors, and more. And I look forward to continuing to support these great nonprofits as they work toward their vision of a better future for everyone!

bottom of page