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Nonprofit Knowledge Matters


Between state budget woes, a new administration in the US, global jitters about Brexit and North Korea, increasing number and severity of natural disasters, and much more, 2017 has been a turbulent year. You and your nonprofit’s board may be asking, “What could possibly happen next?”


John Dewey, an American philosopher and educational reformer, wrote: “We don’t learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” In that spirit, our first article shares a list of “hot topics” that emerged in the past year, along with our reflections that you may find useful in preparing your nonprofit for a successful 2018. This month’s issue also includes reflections on two other challenges we’ve been investigating for you: researching foundation grants, and telling your nonprofit’s story in the most compelling way.


No matter what 2018 brings, the National Council of Nonprofits and our nationwide network of state associations of nonprofits will continue to stand by your nonprofit as advocates, providing timely and trusted information useful to advance your nonprofits’ mission. Thank you for subscribing to this newsletter. To be even more prepared for what 2018 will bring, if you’ve not already done so, we encourage you to consider signing up for a free subscription to Nonprofit Advocacy Matters for updates about state and federal policy matters affecting all nonprofits. We offer our website resources and newsletters available without a paywall to ensure that all nonprofits have equal access to information they need to protect and advance their missions.

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Reflecting on 2017 to Prepare for 2018


At the National Council of Nonprofits, we’re learning about the power of reflection. At a recent board retreat we reflected on a broad range of factors and forces in 2017, ranging from the lack of civility in public discourse and cyber-security risks, to race relations and the growth of donor advised funds. We asked, “How are these external factors impacting the operating environment for charitable nonprofits? What are the implications for our


While we can’t predict what 2018 will bring, we can reflect on what we’ve experienced, consider what worked and what didn’t, and learn how to be more prepared. During 2017, it often felt as if something unexpected was around every corner. Yet, if we reflect on the hot topics that burned brightly in 2017, we may be more prepared for what’s to come in 2018. Here are our reflections and thoughts on what’s ahead. We’d love to hear yours.

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Grant Research Tools – Navigating the Options


To help nonprofits navigate the confusing world of grant research databases, our Director of Resource Development, Amy Silver O’Leary, explored some of the most popular grant research tools. Since most nonprofits don't have the luxury of a multi-person fundraising team, researching grants just got easier with our new resource page about Grant Research Tools. It helps put the task of researching grants in context, shares ideas for where to find assistance in grants research, and includes a new chart designed to help you identify which of several grants research tools might be the best match for your organization. Plus, don’t miss Amy’s grants research advice and personal story about why casting your net too widely in your grant research isn’t efficient or worthwhile.



Better Storytelling: Framing Matters

Frame“Tell a story” is advice we’ve all heard many times. This sounds easy: Tell a story about how someone was helped by your nonprofit. Done!  


Not so fast. Framing a story with context makes a big difference. Research shows some stories could actually turn off donors. Example: A story of an individual in need who was helped by a nonprofit may affirm the belief that people fall on hard times because of their own perceived inability and/or unwillingness to be self-sufficient and resourceful.


A guest blog from our colleagues at the National Human Services Assembly shares fascinating research that may guide you to tell your year-end or other fundraising stories a little differently

Looking ahead: NFF 2018 State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey

Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) regularly collects data about nonprofits' financial health, and related operational issues. The State of the Sector Survey is a widely watched barometer of the health and challenges of nonprofit organizations and the communities we all serve. Please help shine a light on the financial dynamics of our sector by setting aside just 20-30 minutes between Jan. 17 and Feb.  21, 2018, to complete the Survey. Look for a message from your state association of nonprofits with a link to the survey.


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