Chicago, IL – The 2017 Philanthropy Forecast, hosted by the Development Leadership Consortium, was held at Steppenwolf Theatre Company on Wednesday, October 18th, 2017. This annual event, widely attended by development professionals, features a panel of distinguished leaders discussing the current philanthropic climate and the trends shaping the nonprofit industry.
This year’s program was entitled PassionatePhilanthropy in Unpredictable Waters: Strategies for Thriving Amid State and National Fiscal Challenges. The panel consisted of Robin M. Steans, Chair of the Steans Family Foundation; Ric Estrada, President and CEO of Metropolitan Family Services; and Greg Cameron, Executive Director of the Joffrey Ballet. Steven George, Board Chair of the Development Leadership Consortium, served as moderator.
The panel focused primarily on Illinois’ tumultuous fiscal condition and how nonprofits have dealt with state funding cuts and delayed payments. All members of the panel agreed that the most dangerous result of the unsteady financial state was the panic that spread throughout organizations. To combat this, Steans spoke on the importance of not “doomsday prepping” beyond what is necessary. “You have to think, what’s reasonable and responsible and where are we reacting a little too quickly? Don’t waste your energy panicking. Ask other nonprofits in your field and see what they think,” Steans said. She also pointed to the importance of keeping donors informed when these crises hit instead of trying to remain private about it, which many nonprofits did. “(Nonprofits) forget to let folks know they’re in trouble. We sometimes forget to bring our funders in as partners. You want to be confident, but confident and share…to say (to your donors) ‘we’re in hot water, but this is what we’re going to do and this is where we need help.’ ”
The 2017 Philanthropy Forecast Panel
Another primary topic of discussion was the importance of partnerships and collaboration among nonprofits. Estrada said this focus on partnership has “always been part of our DNA” in regards to Metropolitan Family Services, which merged with two other organizations well over a century ago. “You get to choose what kind of people you work with. You want to work with people who see you as a co-creator and a partner, people that know it’s not just about raising money but causing change,” Estrada said. Presently, Metropolitan Family Services is working with eight other organizations in nine communities throughout Chicago in an effort to decrease gang related violence within the city.
Similarly, Greg Cameron spoke on the importance of partnerships and sharing assets in terms of the Joffrey’s recent announcement of relocating to the Civic Opera Building. He reiterated that this was not exclusive to larger organizations. “I don’t care how small you are. You can help and make a difference,” Cameron said, “and from talking with colleagues, this isn’t something that necessarily happens in New York or Los Angeles.”