Professional development? What professional development? Nonprofit organizations often shortchange the budget line for professional development. And if there is a professional development line, it’s not always extended to the whole staff. Nor is it common to budget for board education.

But here’s one organization that figured out how to parlay a small professional development investment into a win-win for the whole community.  It’s a great example of being what Seth Godin calls a freegiver, as opposed to a freeloader.

Faced with a desire to educate her staff and board on fundraising and planning, Bonnie Hilory, Executive Director of the Institute of Flight, figured out she could send 2-3 staff members to national conferences – or create a conference right in her county.

With this idea, she went to the Community Foundation of Snohomish County (WA). What if, together, they brought in national speakers on fundraising and strategic planning, and invited all of the nonprofit organizations in the county and surrounding area to the conference?

As one of two speakers at this Philanthropy Takes Flight conference, I can tell you: It Worked!

The Community Foundation jumped at the chance to create an educational opportunity for the small nonprofits they supported, and became a key sponsor.  With the foundation on board, and additional community supporters, the Institute of Flight created the philanthropy conference. More than 150 individuals from small to large nonprofits attended – including the full board and staff of the Institute of Flight.

For not much more than it would take to send 2-3 individuals to national conferences, Bonnie Hilory educated her staff and board, gave back to the community, and further established the Institute as an anchor in the county.

  • Her board learned from individuals beyond herself and her staff.
  • The nonprofit organizations had an opportunity to learn together.
  • The Institute modeled the possibility of working together instead of competing.
  • The Community Foundation found a partner in building up the experience and knowledge of the agencies it supports.

In the framework of Catalytic Thinking, this spirit of bringing together the resources of the community is called Collective Enoughness – the philosophy that together we have everything we need, that it is only on our own that we experience scarcity. Looked at this way, we are not only collectively assembling the requirements for whatever project we want to accomplish, we are building the relationships that make it possible to do even more.

Truly building the community in which you want to live takes more than just your organization. What can you accomplish together, that you can’t accomplish on your own?

How can you be the catalyst for that coming together?