BLOG: Staying Sustainable and Successful in a Changing World

April 30, 2018 Carly Snyder

DENVER RESCUE MISSION | Staying sustainable and successful in a changing world

Marlissa Cunningham, Specialized Gift Coordinator at Denver Rescue Mission, has always made continuing education a priority in her career. This has made her a better nonprofit professional and a better partner to her colleagues.

Recently Marlissa engaged in new Organizational Best Practices courses from Blackbaud University. These classes gave her the tools to stay up-to-date on trends in the social good community. Here are some key takeaways from Marlissa’s presentation with Blackbaud University:

How has the nonprofit sector changed over the years, and how do organizations like Denver Rescue Mission deal with the changes?  
Marlissa talked about staying on top of industry changes by doing her own research—when she found an article that resonated with the changes she was experiencing at her organization. While organizations like hers are not large corporations, they experience very similar issues—in cybersecurity, for example—and suffer from these problems just like for-profits do. Marlissa stressed that the reputation of organizations like hers are actually more at risk because these issues affect the very fragile sustainability that keeps them reaching toward their mission every day.

Marlissa also realized that the needs of those who benefit from her organization and the abilities of donors to help have changed over the last 50 years, and they need to be responsive to these changes in real time.  

“Donor needs are changing, population needs are changing, and policy is changing; so right now, I really believe that there needs to be a sector-wide recommitment to organizational best practices. We’ve all experienced project isolation with not much talking and sharing of information in between—and that’s made for inconsistent results across the board. If we could all get on the same page of what we need to plan for, watch for, and move toward, I believe our whole sector could improve its reputation and impact. At the end of the day, we’re all here to meet our mission, support our causes, and make truly sustainable change. I really believe recommitment to organizational best practices can do that.”
How has Blackbaud University helped Marlissa and her organization, and how can it help you and yours?
Marlissa is Blackbaud-certified in Nonprofit Fundraising (bCNP-Fundraising), and encourages taking any of the 22 classes available. The courses start with an evaluation of your current capacity and value, and the comprehensive working knowledge of the group really encourages collaboration. Marlissa emphasized how important it was that the classes were structured for collaboration, which is vital at her own organization and others in the sector: “Even within your own department—if you’re in development, you can accomplish nothing if you don’t talk to programs, if you don’t work with operations or your board…I really love how the courses reinforce that and make you collaborate. It’s very easy to see the impact.”

Why is it so important to not only be a technology expert, but also an industry expert?
Marlissa believes in seeing the bigger picture: All nonprofits are working toward the same goal of sustainability and experience the same problems of changing needs—“once you learn the bigger picture, you’re able to more effectively plan.” This leads to successes like quick turnaround and efficiency in projects and initiatives, measurable impact, attainable missions, and recognition of your expertise by your organization and your peers.

More importantly, Marlissa says all these things make your community more attracted to your organization, which is what keeps your organization living and breathing. If you can prove that you have sound practices, you can earn sustainability through the long-term investments of your donors within your community. That kind of longevity is priceless.

If you want to learn more about Marlissa’s experience with organizational best practices in the nonprofit sector, you can hear her thoughts on the impact of having industry expertise in this on demand webinar recording.
Learn more about taking Blackbaud University’s Organizational Best Practices classes here!
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QUIZ: Do your strategies move your mission forward?