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Conference Welcome Remarks: A Call to Action for Capacity Builders

Thursday, November 1, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Anne Yurasek
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The following welcome remarks were shared with conference attendees as part of the 2018 Capacity Builders Conference, delivered by Anne Yurasek, Board Chair. 

Good morning!  I hope those of you who were able to attend one of our dine-arounds last night had a great time – to those of you just joining us – welcome!

I would first like to recognize our host for this morning’s breakfast, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.  The Foundation is home to one of the most in-depth and innovated capacity building approaches in the country – one that has invested in the nonprofits in this region for over 99 years.  Thank you for your support!

I would also like to thank our many other sponsors and supporters including Third Sector New England, The Support Center, Community Resource Exchange, Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, Bay Path University, Painefree Coaching and Consulting, Cause Effective, and many others.  Thank you for your support and commitment to the field of capacity building.


Since 2012, the Alliance for Nonprofit Management has partnered with nonprofit associations, academic centers as well as ARNOVA for its annual convening.  About a year ago, a group of us had a realization. A recognition of the need to create a unique space for our Alliance community. A convening that would draw consultants, researchers, students, funders and capacity building organizations together to learn, to connect, and to explore ways to advance the field of capacity building.  

This recognition was coupled with a motivation as we recognized that the field of capacity building in the nonprofit sector has a unique opportunity to assist organizations and communities in addressing racial equity.  We believe that tackling this critical issue will also spur innovation in our work as we explore the intersection of the two. Our conference theme “Re-envisioning the field: Advancing Racial Equity and Innovation in Capacity Building” emerged from that motivation.

Today in the nonprofit sector, we recognize that there are deep flaws that perpetuate systems of inequality and inequity in our communities.  We know that philanthropic resources and government contracts for human services are disproportionately invested in larger nonprofit entities, while smaller community-based organizations working with marginalized communities, led by people of color, are addressing challenges on the front lines with significantly fewer resources.  Large funders typically are not interested in funding all-volunteer, smaller organizations leaving the entities that are mobilizing communities for advocacy and action, severely undercapitalized.

The nonprofit sector continues to experience a racial leadership gap -- the percentage of people of color in the executive director/CEO role has remained under 20% for the last 15 years even as the country becomes more diverse.   The Race to Lead study, by the Building Movement project, identifies the lack of people of color in top leadership roles as a structural problem for the nonprofit sector.

While the 2017 Leading with Intent study from Boardsource found that despite reporting high levels of dissatisfaction with current board demographics — particularly racial and ethnic diversity — boards are not prioritizing demographics in their recruitment practices. There is work to be done.

We now also know that large scale, social change cannot be accomplished by a single player, organization or individual.  We have learned that change requires not just effective organizations but powerful collective efforts – coalitions, collaboratives, and partnerships – that in turn, act as the basis for social movements.  From Black Lives Matter, to the Women’s March, #metoo, #neveragain, to supporting immigrants and LGBTQ communities, we are recognizing that not only do we need strong organizations, we need networks that can coordinate, mobilize, and activate communities across the country to create lasting change.

This conference represents a call for reflection, a call for learning…and more importantly, a call for hope and for action.   We must be emboldened to take risk and to evolve how we work with leaders, organizations, and communities to actively work to dismantle the systems that maintain the status quo.

We need to be curious and driven…How can we support our clients and grantees with advancing equity in their own organizations?  How do we acquire the courage and skills to address the issue of white privilege in ourselves, our organizations and communities?   How can we encourage and support emerging capacity builders of color? How can we ensure our clients and grantees are putting their own clients at the center of their decision making?  How do our approaches need to evolve to actively advance racial equity in our work? And what are the edges of our field, the new approaches and knowledge, the innovative models that we should consider integrating into our practices?  

And that is why we here.  The time is now. We cannot wait.  I believe that each of you is here because you are deeply committed to your practice in the field and you believe that there is a role that you can play to advance racial equity and innovation in the field of capacity building.

I am glad you are here.  To reflect, to learn, and in turn, to act.   

Welcome the to 2018 Capacity Builders Conference.