Event Recap – Voices from the Field: Thought Leaders Response

Voices from the Field: Thought Leaders Response
November 23, 2009
Moderated by Frank Abdale, Co-Chair, NYTAP Board of Directors

Jill Mendelson, Deputy Managing Director for Organizational Services at UJA-Federation of New York
Jill described several capacity building programs at UJA: the 25 year old pro bono MAP program which involves 1,500 professionals providing services to UJA grantees; about $500k per year in TA grants to grantees; convening Special Interest Groups (SIG’s) with specialists in HR, finance, marketing and peer learning; a training department which provides staff development; and UJA staff support in real estate issues for grantees. She spoke about several new trends in capacity building being development in UJA. They are shifting their services to a more collaborative model, looking for issues that are transferable among several clients e.g. financial literacy for boards. They are exploring distance learning.

Anne Sherman, Associate Director at TCC Group
Anne has been in TCC’s nonprofit practice for 10 years. Most of their work is strategy and evaluation. They have done considerable work on evaluating the effectiveness of capacity building. In fact, they made a presentation at NYTAP several years ago with their findings. Now they are engaged in a national study of TA with the Nonprofit Alliance. She said that the evaluation must match to the investment and type of capacity building. “One size does not fit all.” For example, training is good for imparting technical skills but not so good for improving supervision and leadership. She stressed the importance of a thorough needs assessment before capacity building is assigned. She encouraged us to make the case that in hard times, evaluation helps. It shows interest in continuous improvement which brings more value to the funders and everyone involved.

Linda Manley, Legal Director at Lawyer’s Alliance of New York City
Linda said Lawyers Alliance does 400 projects a year and responds to 1,000 calls. Predominant current issues are program preservation, downsizing and strategic alliances. She also addressed measurement of TA effectiveness – how to measure lawyers impact on strengthening nonprofits. They ask both pro bono lawyers and nonprofit clients to fill out a one page report which gets about a 70% return and some very important information.  She warned about some nonprofits being “TA junkies” who keep getting TA but don’t solve chronic problems, therefore, Lawyers Alliance is selective about clients and looks for good leaders who can be the ED or the Board.

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