It’s not like we’re counting sheep, but…

It was like a very large family reunion — joining 800 plus other nonprofit leaders from across the state at the NC Center for Nonprofits Conference. It is always great to see old friends, have the opportunity to meet new ones — and to offer support, encouragement and share laughter, collaboration and ideas with each other. Being in a room with a large number of folks who shares many of my very same challenges and stays awake at night thinking about many of the same things always makes me feel better.

The opening session was certainly thought- and conversation-provoking. Dan Pallotta, author of Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine their Potential, was the keynote speaker on Thursday. He challenges many of the assumptions made about the nonprofit community, including compensation, overhead, advertising, research and capital.

“The nonprofit sector is critical to our dream of changing the world. Yet there is no greater injustice than the double standard that exists between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. One gets to feast on marketing, risk-taking, capital and financial incentive, the other is sentenced to begging,” Pallotta told us. Lots of conversation about his remarks ensued, including and how we can share his message with a broader audience.

Over lunch our table had a good discussion of what about our work keeps us up at night. Clearly there was much agreement over funding issues and board leadership, but what I kept hearing was concern over how we can best have impact. How to advance our mission also keeps many of us up at night. Other issues we discussed: our changing world and keeping up with technological advances.

 I am fearful that many nonprofit leaders are not getting enough sleep.