Top takeaways from the MCN Annual Conference

“It’s easy to make a buck, it’s tougher to make a difference.” This quote from Tom Brokaw provided an overarching theme for the annual conference hosted by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN). On October 1 and 2, colleagues from around Minnesota gathered at the RiverCentre in St. Paul to celebrate, learn, and, yes, commiserate about the work we do across the state. As I was awarded a scholarship to attend from YNPN Twin Cities (in partnership with MCN), I was able to join them for two days of networking and in-depth sessions…with a few pieces of chocolate thrown in. 

If you were not able to attend I’m happy to share my top takeaways from these brilliant fall days: 

  1. If you struggle to get your board to participate in fundraising you are not alone – the session I attended was so full they ran out of handouts. Practical tips were shared including setting expectations before new members join and aligning tasks with their skills and interests. 
  2. Nonprofits employ a lot of people – one in ten employees in Minnesota work for a nonprofit! 
  3. I found one session’s definition of the “new” philanthropy interesting – from “the desire to promote the welfare of others expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes” to “the mutually beneficial sharing of time, talent, treasure, and ties to build and improve the common good.” 
  4. There is an ongoing dialogue, not just in Minnesota but nationally, regarding the pushback that nonprofits are now giving funders regarding the restrictions they face to carry out the vital work of their organizations. Vu Le stressed this in his keynote speech - if you don’t subscribe to and read Vu Le’s blog, Nonprofit with Balls, you should. 
  5. Storytelling stretches across all areas the multi-faceted work a nonprofit does. It was good to be reminded to construct stories that position the donor as the hero who can step in and help and to design mobile-friendly materials. 
  6. And just for fun…we are a group of tea drinkers – on both Thursday and Friday, every pot of hot water was emptied and the beverage cart was overflowing with used tea bags. 

When driving home on Friday, I reflected on something that was said during the conference – behind Gandhi and Martin Luther King were people stuffing envelopes and harassing others to get involved and come to meetings. True enough that the work of a nonprofit may not be glamorous (Le joked that we are the most attractive people in any sector and offered an idea for a “men of nonprofits” calendar), but I was reminded that it is vital to any community across the state.

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