Hundreds of leaders in Delaware’s nonprofit sector gathered for a conference at the University of Delaware to talk about the future of nonprofits in the First State.
More than 400 people took part in the first day of a two-day conference hosted at the University of Delaware focused on The Future of the Nonprofit Sector.
Representatives from many of Delaware’s 958 active nonprofit organizations heard Delaware Governor Jack Markell describe the similarities between the challenges facing nonprofits and the challenges facing state government. He says, for many businesses in the private sector, when the economy tumbles, demand decreases too. But that’s not the case for neither nonprofits nor state government services. In many cases, the demand for their services increase during an economic downturn. Markell says, “We think about how we can build on the legacy of those who built our agencies before us, and how we can ensure that the next generation of agency leadership can take our work to the next level.”
Markell told the conference that because of the increased demand during a downturn, nonprofits need to become more nimble and trim overhead. “You’re endeavoring to move more quickly to deliver services. You’ve shared with me that you are streamlining grant writing processes. You’re adapting new media approaches to reach out to clients.”
The group also heard from There du Pont, president of the Longwood Foundation. He says the conference is a great way to share ideas and best practices to deal with the downturn. “The forces at work around us are demanding that you do more. And you’ve got to meet those demands or face some very painful choices for your organizations and for those that you serve, which is the last place we want to have this impact.” He urged attendees to work together to find new ways to operate, “So you might learn a few new ways to squeeze water from the stone.”
Delaware’s nonprofit groups are certainly a sizable part of the state’s economy. More people work in at nonprofits in the state then work in the utility, construction or wholesale trade industries.
Markell says, “The work that you all do helps define the quality of our state, and you define who we are as a people. The work you do is critical, and the work you garners the respect and appreciation from hundreds of thousands of Delawareans, starting with me.”