The Ally: September 2020 – Sammy Moon

Sammy Moon
CEO
The MS Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy

Note from the Executive Director

There is no question that we are all being challenged in ways we could never have imagined. With political divisiveness, social unrest, economic challenges, education disruptions, the COVID-19 global pandemic, out-of-control fires in the West, and hurricanes,  what we assumed to be routine and somewhat predictable has been turned upside down and inside-out.  Stress levels and anxiety are the new daily normal.

I say all this to acknowledge that we ALL feel overwhelmed and anxious, not only when we deal with our current daily activities, but also when we think about what the future may bring.  These feelings are entirely normal, and they are shared by others in our state and nation.

When we acknowledge these feelings and realize they are indeed normal, we become even more committed to doing what we do best, which is to reach out and help our fellow citizens when their needs and challenges are greater than ever!  Because we are engaged in nonprofit and philanthropic work, we are called on to “up our game” during times like these. We all have done that.  Please know The Alliance recognizes, appreciates, and celebrates the incredibly good work being done throughout the state!

This edition of The Ally is focused on the benefits associated with being a member of The Alliance.  Our job is to provide training, technical assistance, consulting, and other services and products to help you be successful.  In addition to these regular Alliance offerings, we are committed to identifying other unique benefits and opportunities to strengthen your efforts.  These “benefits of membership” are made available to all Alliance members.

We will continue to seek out and enhance the member benefits, and I encourage you to check out our website – https://www.alliancems.org – and review the available services.  If you have questions or suggestions, please contact Maribeth Kitchings at membership@alliancems.org.

Continue to stay safe, and thanks for doing what you do best – caring for others!  We appreciate you.

Sammy Moon
Executive Director

The Ally: September 2020 – Ellen Collins

Ellen Collins
COO
The MS Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy

An Inclusive Approach

The Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy grew out of the vision that nonprofits and philanthropy working together can drastically improve the lives of the people and communities of Mississippi.  At the center of this vision are the core values that drive our approach.  These include diversity, inclusion, transparency, innovation, collaboration, use of best practices, and a focus on quality.

However, on May 25, 2020, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis brought to our consciousness that merely stating commitments to diversity and inclusion is not enough. We, the Alliance Board and staff, must do more so that we demonstrate these values with the appropriate action.  Diversity, inclusion, and racial equity must be integrated into our operations.  We must be willing to examine our own internal culture and practices and hold ourselves accountable for making the necessary changes that will ultimately move the work of the Alliance and our members forward.

Our first step was to issue a public commitment to address diversity, equity, and inclusion intentionally and strategically (click here to read the statement). The next step was to follow up that statement with concrete and sustainable short and long-term action steps and goals. Examining our value statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion and aligning it with measurable indicators and benchmarks will enable us to track changes over time.  We will also perform an internal equity audit to assess our operating policies and procedures.  This assessment will review our procurement of vendors and contracts, recruitment and hiring policies, personnel policies, member dues structure, training costs, and review of our tools and curriculums.  We want to “walk the talk” that we speak and not make empty promises.

Of course, we cannot do this work alone.  We will look to you, our members and partners in this effort, to hold us accountable to these goals.  We ask that you support us and each other as we work to better ourselves and our understanding of what it really means to apply a racial equity lens to our work and to examine negative experiences associated with gender, class, and other prejudices.  We will seek your input as we further define our short and long-term goals.  Our collective knowledge and experience will help to transform our communities and, thus, our state. We can create a society where everyone has access to opportunities.   This is our moment; let us not waste it.

The Ally: September 2020 – Sharolyn Smith

Sharolyn Smith
CEO and Founder
JournaLISTics & D’Zigns

The Alliance as an Essential Partner

After an accounting career in the private business, government, entrepreneurship and nonprofit sectors for more than four decades, I started to think about what I could do next.  The decision was easy because I am passionate about working with nonprofits and volunteers.

As a volunteer, I started with an interest in service organizations and advanced through many training programs, mainly with The Alliance (formerly MS Center for Nonprofits).  I continued to connect with them, as an associate member, for the meaningful community opportunities and exceptional services.  The personal and professional experiences and engagements that I have been afforded remain life-changing and ever-evolving.

My membership in The MS Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy (The Alliance) has been one of the most rewarding relationships in my journey in nonprofit, public service, and volunteering.  The involvement with “The Alliance” has been worthwhile in many ways.  The people I have met have been phenomenal and very resourceful when information is needed.  The training provided by The Alliance is affordable and empowering. The Alliance has given me the tools I need to be an effective partner in community engagement and nonprofit leadership.

It has been and will continue to be exciting to learn how our organizations are making a difference in the communities we serve. Now more than ever, nonprofit services are essential to the well-being of our communities and the world.

The Ally: September 2020 – Nancy Perret

Nancy B. Perret
Consultant
MS Alliance for Nonprofits and Philanthropy

It’s All Connected!

The Alliance was formed with a bold intent to change the dialog and the dynamic between philanthropy and nonprofits – acknowledging that these two powerful forces for good are “two sides of the same coin.”  You’ll see that concept woven throughout the Alliance’s programming on an increasing basis, as we continue to grow.  When you “begin with the end in mind,” as Stephen Covey said, a robust framework can be established to achieve your goals.

So we began by re-framing the best practices that inform our work.  The Principles and Standards for Nonprofit and Philanthropy Excellence © have been updated to be the first in the nation to include best practice standards for both nonprofits and philanthropy.  In this update, two categories were added (public/private foundation standards and volunteer management), and other categories have been re-organized to reflect currently accepted best practice standards, including a greater emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the document.

Now, all training is directly linked to these standards. When you attend an Alliance-sponsored training, you’ll be told which of the Principles and Standards are being addressed. Our learning objectives are tied directly to these standards, with a focus on ensuring that you receive the information you need to increase proficiency in those stated standards.  In addition, training is increasingly being categorized based on the primary target audience (beginning concepts, more advanced topics, or aimed at more “seasoned professionals” – those of us who’ve been around for a while).  And whether you choose individual courses or a course series (such as the one being offered in partnership with Millsaps’ Advanced Applied Leadership Program), you can take your organization through the requirements for certification in our Excellence in Action program

There are two diagnostic tools (for organizations and individuals) available that provide self-guided help to resolve simple issues. They enable us to provide customized recommendations for specific training and other support (consultations, research tools, etc.) based on your unique needs.

We’re continuing to build a highly talented and diverse pool of expert trainers and consultants that provide standard and customized training as well as one-on-one consultation.  Other resources include  GuideStar and the Foundation Directory Online (both offered by Candid.) for your research. The Alliance provides internally-produced documents, such as the Philanthropic Giving in Mississippi 2019 report and more, available online.

Affinity groups provide opportunities for networking and exchange with organizations with similar goals.  You’ll be hearing more about expanded opportunities to join an affinity group in the coming months.

And our weekly webinar series and quarterly member meetings provide further opportunities for learning and networking.  These are held online to allow for this exchange, but with consideration for public health issues that remain a concern.

We are continuously developing new programs with your ever-changing needs in mind.  So keep reading The Ally and watch your inbox for exciting additions in the weeks and months ahead.

The Ally: September 2020 – Tammy Golden

Tammy Golden
Executive Director
Growing Up Knowing

The Benefits of Membership

To me, Membership with the MS Alliance means inspiration, connectedness, education, and community. As the new Executive Director for Growing Up Knowing, I knew I needed to step up my game regarding leadership skills and the day to day management of a nonprofit agency. I also needed to find “my people,” those folks with more and different experiences than mine, who also face similar struggles and challenges.

I had no idea when I began with Growing Up Knowing in January that just two months later, I would be packing up my office to work from home. All those meetings and luncheons to build relationships were put on hold. Our programming calendar was canceled. I had no idea what the rest of the spring or summer would look like.

Before the lockdown, I did have the opportunity to take advantage of a few in-person training classes with The Alliance. These were extremely beneficial, as they focused on grant writing and fundraising. Who knew that just a few short weeks after my last training, I would be home spending the bulk of my days writing LOIs and Grant Proposals? Thank goodness for the training I received at The Alliance! I continue to participate in training webinars and have found them extremely helpful.

One of the things I have appreciated the most is the relationship with other Nonprofit Warriors across the state. I made meaningful connections at the first Quarterly Meeting of 2020, putting faces to names and learning more about all that The Alliance has to offer. The Weekly Webinars during COVID have been a great place to hear from others doing good work and getting into “good trouble.” Membership with The Alliance, especially during the pandemic, has given me the feeling of community. Each Thursday, I can Zoom with folks who are doing the same thing I am: trying to continue their missions in this extraordinary time. Thinking outside the box and getting it done. It has not only helped me make critical professional connections but continues to inspire me daily.

The price of membership with The MS Alliance is so small compared to the benefits I have received. The Alliance understands the budget constraints of most nonprofits, and the discount pricing on training has allowed me to participate more than I would otherwise. The Alliance continues to offer support, education, and invaluable resources during these trying times. I can’t imagine trying to navigate 2020 without them!

The Ally: September 2020 – Dave Miller

Dave Miller
Program Director
MS Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy

We've Got a Program for That

Capacity building is a concept that is thrown around a lot in the nonprofit sector. The Alliance takes this idea very seriously. We live in an unprecedented time. At work, positions are shifting, strategic plans must be re-written, budgets are fluctuating, staff members are taking on new tasks, and organizations are being forced to adapt in ways they never anticipated. The Alliance is here to help.

We have worked tirelessly to ensure that any organization has access to the resources they need when they need it.

Need to learn how to create graphic designs? We’ve got training for that.

Need to develop your board? We’ve got a consultant for that.

Need to learn how to be a fundraiser? We’ve got a learning track for that.

Need to connect with other organizations in your sector? We’ve got a member event for that.

Need to learn about what is happening across the state? We’ve got a Weekly Webinar for that.

Need to make sure you are operating according to nationally recognized best practices? We’ve got a certification for that.

The impact of meaningful capacity building goes deeper than helping you learn a new skill; it is about ensuring you have all the tools you need to be successful so you can do the critical work to support Mississippians in need. When the tide that supports all nonprofits rises, all Mississippian’s boats lift. My job as the Program Director is to do everything I can to make that happen, and I have the perfect new program to illustrate this point.

Two months ago, we launched the Emerging Leaders: Fundraising Executives learning track, in partnership with the Association of Fundraising Professionals MS Chapter and Volunteer MS and Nonprofit Hub Network. This yearlong pilot program brings 16 diverse organizations and leaders from around the state together once a month for a day of learning. They are surrounded by and engaging with some of the strongest teachers and leaders in the state. Participants spend considerable time learning about what it takes to be a good leader, adapting to new technologies, networking, and a myriad of practical day-to-day skills. Additionally, they spend several months completing a long-term project in partnership with the Secretary of State’s office. Throughout the learning track, they earn nationally recognized Certified Fundraising Executive continuing education points.

When taken as a whole, this program will help ensure that many thousands of Mississippians, from across the state, are supported in unique and meaningful ways by organizations that are engaging in practices that ensure long-term sustainability. Every Mississippian deserves to live a happy, healthy, and productive life, and sometimes that means receiving assistance from and engaging with nonprofits. The Alliance is here to help to make that a possibility. I hope to see you in our training, events, Weekly Webinar, and learning tracks.

The Ally: September 2020 – Mike Ward

Mike Ward
Consultant
MS Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy

What’s in it for You?

With the pressure on agency budgets caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is only fair to question why an organization should invest its resources in an Alliance membership, and what return it will get on its investment should you decide to join the Alliance.

Every nonprofit organization needs to raise funds to support its work. Having access to timely and relevant information about grant opportunities is critical to the success of fundraising efforts.  Members of the Alliance automatically become members of the Society of Nonprofit Organizations, through which they receive a complimentary membership to GrantStation (retail value $699).  GrantStation ch provides grantseekeers with unlimited access to a database with thousands of current funding sources for your programs or projects, and a weekly e-newsletter on funding opportunities.  Members also have full access to the Network for Good’s Content and Curriculum Library, including hundreds of fundraising templates and sample materials that can be used to design fundraising campaigns.

Members also gain subscription-level access (retail value $1,000) to GuideStar, the most complete, up-to-date source for data on nonprofits.  All members can create custom data sets to support in-depth research of Mississippi’s nonprofit sector, which can facilitate collaboration between organizations with similar aims.  Alliance members have access to training on how to improve their GuideStar profiles, which contain essential information that is increasingly used by donors and funders in making funding decisions.  Philanthropic members can access the full range of GuideStar data on any of the 14,000 nonprofits located in Mississippi, enabling them to assess potential grantees more efficiently and to make well-informed investment decisions.

One of the most valuable benefits of membership, based on surveys of Alliance members, is the access to unique networking, educational, and learning opportunities that increase mission effectiveness.  The Alliance’s quarterly meetings offer nonprofits and philanthropists opportunities for networking, building partnerships, and collaboration. Members may attend programs on relevant topics and have access to a comprehensive resource library, including templates, sample policies, and guidance on fundraising, operations and management.  Our members also enjoy significant discounts on workshops, webinars, forums, events, and other educational programs sponsored by the Alliance and our partners. Additional discounts on products and services, including subscriptions to publications, software, and office products, are available to all nonprofits, philanthropic, or grantmaking organizations.

For more information about joining the Alliance, contact membership@alliancems.org, or visit www.alliancems.org/join to complete an online application.

Affinity Groups: Leveraging Membership for Impact

Alliance members have the opportunity to create Affinity Groups or Member Networks that have shared interests or missions. These groups can interact, share information, and develop programs and activities that build their capacity and increase their programmatic and philanthropic impact. Affinity groups also increase learning opportunities through professional development and networking with regional and national resources.  Learning from each other, comparing notes, and exchanging best practices, members of these groups can amplify their collective work as they enjoy the power of a common purpose.

The Alliance’s Community Foundations Network was the catalyst for the first comprehensive report on philanthropy in Mississippi (2015) and a county-by-county assessment of the potential for giving due to generational transfer of wealth in Mississippi (2016).  The Network developed the framework for the Endow Mississippi Program, enacted by the Mississippi Legislature in 2019, to provide tax credits for gifts to endowed funds at the state’s community foundation.  The Alliance now manages the Endow Mississippi Program, which generated $2 million in new endowment gifts to community foundations in 2019.  Members of the Community Foundation Network have now been designated by the state to manage and distribute $4 million in CARES Act funding for nonprofits and another $4 million in CARES Act funding for food pantries across Mississippi.

The Education Affinity Group has been engaged in mapping interests and grants made with respect to specific segments of the “Education Pipeline” in Mississippi and exploring the creation of a pool of funds to support educational innovation across the state.  It is also researching policy initiatives that support educational improvements across Mississippi.

For more information about joining or forming an affinity group, Alliance members should contact membership@alliancems.org.

The Ally: August 2020 – Dr. Carey Wright

Dr. Carey Wright
State Superintendent of Education
Mississippi Department of Education

New School Year Brings New Opportunity

The process of returning to school looks different in the 2020-21 school year because of the ongoing threat of COVID-19. Some school districts have had to postpone their first day of school, some started the year with distance learning, and others opted to offer traditional school for most students.

The pandemic that brought our last school year to an abrupt end continues to challenge teachers, school leaders and families. Students with no access to computers or the internet at home were put at a significant disadvantage last year when schools shifted to distance learning. This inequity must be remedied.

That is why the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has been working with the Legislature since the spring to provide computer devices to all students to equip them for digital learning at school or at home.

The result of that work is two new laws. The Equity in Distance Learning Act (SB 3044) provides $150 million to school districts to pay for computer devices for students and teachers, software to deliver instruction, enhanced internet connectivity, and professional development for digital teaching and learning. The Mississippi Pandemic Response Broadband Availability Act (HB 1788) allocates $50 million to districts to help expand internet access to students living in underserved areas.

Once fully implemented, the two new laws have the potential to put a device in the hands of every student who needs one, ensure students can access the internet when not in a school building, equip teachers to teach remotely, and provide districts with a choice of high-quality options for a digital curriculum and an online system to deliver it.

Computer devices are expected to arrive in districts starting in late September. Districts that already have computers for students will use their digital learning funds to pay for other eligible expenses the laws allow.

The Legislature’s $200 million investment is a starting point for bringing equity to education in Mississippi. Further investments will be needed to strengthen and sustain this statewide digital learning initiative so that all students have equal access to technology.
Parents, educators, school leaders, and community members have the same goal: We want students to learn and grow and to be successful in school and life. We all must be committed to ensuring that every child in Mississippi has an equal opportunity and learn, whether they are at school or at home.

Yes, this school year will be a challenge, but I am confident we can rise to this challenge together. Our students are depending on us.

Carey M. Wright, Ed.D., is the Mississippi State Superintendent of Education. Find more information and resources at mdek12.org.

The Ally: August 2020 – Oleta Fitzgerald

Oleta Fitzgerald
Southern Regional Director
Children’s Defense Fund

Covid-19 and K-12 Education

The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is a national nonprofit child advocacy organization that has worked for nearly 50 years to uplift all children, especially poor children and children of color. CDF’s Jackson, MS Southern Regional Office has worked on advocacy and public policy issues related to opportunities for poor children and families for 25 of those years. A key focus of this work has been access to quality public education, including early childhood education.

Long before COVID-19, our programmatic work, and advocacy for fully funding Mississippi’s K-12 public schools gave us a clear understanding of the challenges pre- COVID that are exacerbated by this terrible pandemic.

Many Mississippi public school districts are located in areas where poverty rates are highest, and property values are lowest have struggled. COVID-19 laid bare the disproportionate impact on these very school districts. Research has revealed that poverty – more than race – is the critical determinant in k-12 achievement gaps. Well-resourced communities were able to move quickly to virtual learning as schools were well-equipped with technology. Teachers were trained, and families had access to reliable broadband. Parents were more prepared to assist in their child’s learning. Children either already had the devices they needed to attend online classes or their school districts were able to provide them.

In poor and primarily rural areas of our state, children struggled long before COVID to access technology because of a lack of affordable and accessible broadband. Often those students who were able traveled to small shopping centers and restaurant parking lots to access “hot spots” to complete their homework. Many districts serving these areas also did not have robust technology programs or staff within all of their schools. Consequently, their experience moving to virtual learning opportunities was much more limited than those located in the more well-resourced communities.

Many in the nonprofit and philanthropic community provide services to k-12 schools. They know first hand how COVID-19 has disrupted the delivery of services to children in greatest need. We also know that children who were the most vulnerable before COVID are most likely to fall further behind as a result of COVID’s devastating impacts. These concerns and the need for parents to return to their desperately needed jobs are driving the push to re-open schools. We know that poor children have more significant health care issues and that our school workforce is reflective of those at the highest risk for contracting and experiencing the worst outcomes of this disease.

In addition to these challenges, a recent General Accounting Office report found about half of the districts they surveyed needed to update or replace multiple systems like heating, ventilation, air conditioning, or plumbing, and one third needed HVAC system updates. Old and crumbling school buildings pose severe health risks since we know that poor ventilation spreads the disease. Though school districts are to receive additional resources through federal COVID-19 funding for WiFi hot spots and devices – they will not receive the required resources to decrease all of the challenges outlined here. There will be expected delays in how able they are to staff up and ramp up the provision of virtual learning.

What may be the role of Mississippi’s nonprofit and philanthropic communities? Mississippi government does not appear prepared to do what is necessary. There is a dire need for non-governmental organization leaders to help plan our way out of COVID and toward long term recovery, better prepared and better resourced to help the most vulnerable children and families in our state.

The Ally: August 2020 – Dr. Cathy Grace

Dr. Cathy Grace
Co-Director
The Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning

These are the Times...

Thomas Payne’s often-quoted words, “These are the times that try men’s souls”… still resonate today. Many of us may feel we are in the fight of our lives, and we are not sure some days if we are winning. We never dreamed our lives would be disrupted so quickly by a disease that is still puzzling the medical field. These are truly the times that try men’s souls.

As we enter month seven of the COVID -19 Pandemic, parents are reentering the workforce. Emergency unemployment benefits have expired, and school-age children are returning to school. But what about families with younger children? How can families go back to work when the childcare programs they have depended on are closed? In May, The Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning at the North Mississippi Education Consortium and the University of Mississippi surveyed 1,120 licensed child care centers in the state to determine if and how they were operating.

Of the 35% of centers responding, 55% indicated they were closed or operating on a limited basis. Even with federal funds for emergency support, child care centers in Mississippi are barely surviving. The Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS) has the primary responsibility of financial disbursement of all federal funds targeting childcare for priority populations and are using the funds to help sustain facilities that serve the children, with the exception of Head Start.

In May, 42% of centers had lost at least half of their revenue; 51% of centers could not pay even half of their monthly expenses. During the summer, DHS has supported struggling facilities by providing additional funds for programs serving the children of first responders and those that enrolled children in priority populations. Soon, additional funds will be released by DHS to shore up the deflated revenue facilities are experiencing again. These funds will help offset increasing expenditures for purchasing extra cleaning supplies and personal protection equipment. COVID-19 has upended the childcare industry.

The role the childcare industry plays in the economic growth in communities across the state is absolutely critical. The pandemic has brought to light the necessity of childcare facilities offering high quality, safe, and affordable care so that parents can continue to work. As schools experiment with online instruction in their efforts to mitigate COVID-19, working parents of school-age children will now find themselves looking at childcare facilities during traditional school hours. If the number of licensed facilities in a community is inadequate, where will the children spend their days?

The philanthropic community in Mississippi has been more than generous in supporting the growth and development of our citizens, beginning in the early years. Science proves that the first years for a child are the most critical for brain development, making high-quality childcare even more essential for children. Why not let this be a call to action? Philanthropic organizations could become the catalyst in creating the type of high-quality systems our children deserve, starting at the community level. We need a long-range plan to develop robust methods of education for our youngest citizens. Such an effort would represent a victory over COVID-19. We could then say to Mr. Payne, “Our souls were tested, and we are the stronger for it.”

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