Wean Foundation Summit speaker: Nonprofits can dominate future economy

By William K. Alcorn



A national expert in the field said nonprofit organizations have a chance to dominate the local and national economy, over business and government, within two decades.

The sector of the economy that engages human energy is nonprofits, and it can become a powerful force, said Ruth McCambridge, keynote speaker for the Raymond J. Wean Foundation’s seventh annual Nonprofit Summit Thursday at Youngstown State University’s Kilcawley Center.

To capitalize on the opportunity, nonprofits must understand “that the people they are working for and with are their most important capital,” she said.

The old style of thinking by nonprofits that they can be whatever they want and not pay attention to what their constituents want no longer works.

“If you think that way, you rob yourself of your power. There is a renewed sense of activism. We’re a part of that,” said McCambridge, editor in chief of Nonprofit Quarterly, speaking to area nonprofit leaders and staff.

NPQ, a national publication that tracks and provides analyses of important trends in the nonprofit sector and philanthropy, has been called “The Harvard Business Review” of the nonprofit sector.

McCambridge said the nation has gone from an industrial-based to a more fractionalized knowledge-based economy in which individuals have access to more information.

With the Internet, people have the ability to teach themselves and connect with people of like interests and causes.

Society is changing rapidly, and when nonprofits get too rigid, they end up not being able to hear and adapt to new ideas and changes. For nonprofits to have a major role, they need to be open to changes and surprises and listen to their constituents.

If they do those things, nonprofits can “write their own ticket in creating the communities we want for the future.”

The Wean Foundation Nonprofit Summit began at 7:45 a.m. with networking sessions for board members, faith-based organization leaders and emerging nonprofit leaders. Numerous break-out sessions were conducted before and after the keynote address, with the event ending at 4 p.m.

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