All too often in the corporate, legislative, and academic sector, entities get caught up in day to day activities and forget that the people they are serving are what matter most. Sadly it occasionally occurs in the advocacy sector too; nonprofits have much work to do and more often than not a significant amount of time and attention is focused on keeping the machine oiled and functional. According to National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), in 2012 there were over 1.5 million nonprofit orgs in the US. But simply hanging the "nonprofit" sign on your wall does not mean an org is serving your constituency the way the nonprofit sector was designed to work. Struggling to capture funding sometimes blinds those within the sector as they compete with other nonprofits for dollars to make ends meet. Money aside, we must always prioritize listening to the voices and specific needs of the people we serve, more than the money to make it happen. If we do our jobs well, the funding will materialize.
Attending the WIAWH (Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health) in Milwaukee this month was a joyful eye-opener for me. As the "new kid on the block" in women's advocacy, I've been a bit confused at times at the mindset and behaviors I've seen within the sector. I'm sure many I've had discussions with probably rolled their eyes at questions I've asked and comments I've made regarding protocol. I have always and will always feel that at the end of the day, every day, the most valuable action we take is simply listening to those we serve, bare grassroots basics. Yes nonprofits are run like any other business behind the scenes, staff must be paid, bills taken care of, paper-flow processed, but we must always be mindful of what generated our desire to do what we do.
Healthcare, Academia, Legislation, and Advocacy tiers came together at WIAWH and I was delighted to not only see but feel the positive force, everyone on the same page with like mindset, working together, willing to share but not pushing their information, reaching out to the others in the room. The positive energy was absolutely palpable, true nonprofit buoyancy, and not one whine about funding (or rather lack of it). The event was like a warm group hug!