IS members represent nonprofits, foundations, and corporations engaged in every kind of charitable endeavor, with missions that reflect the nearly infinite ways of working for the common good. New member The Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy is a membership association of mission-based organizations that seeks to serve, build capacity, and foster collaboration among and between Mississippi’s nonprofit and philanthropic communities. The Alliance was formed from the merger of the Mississippi Association of Grantmakers and the Mississippi Center for Nonprofits in 2019.
We had the opportunity to talk with Sammy Moon, executive director, and a number of Alliance staff members including:
Ellen Collins, Chief Operating Officer
Karla Edwards, Central MS Hub Director for Volunteers and Nonprofits
Dave Miller, Program Director
Sandra Johnson, Membership and Administrative Services Coordinator
Mike Ward, Consultant
Nancy Perret, Consultant
Maribeth Kitchings, Consultant
What does some of your typical work at the Alliance include? What are some of the programs and services your organization offers?
SM: Every day has a focus on core parts of our work such as training, consultation, capacity building with nonprofits, and philanthropy. Throughout this work serving our members is central to what we do. Our collaborative work with our affinity groups is also ongoing, including policy work through affinity groups, both issue-focused and role-alike, and building relationships between philanthropy and nonprofits.
EC: Our diversity, equity, and inclusion work is part of our ongoing effort both internally and externally. The internal work includes staffing, internal practices, and how we do business. We see this evolving work as serving as a model for what we’d like members to adopt and practice. We’re working on guiding principles and have a task force for this with our board. We’re taking the process in steps with both shorter and longer-term goals, including a 12-month plan, and then plans for beyond that time frame. Our board members are supporting those plans and committed to moving them forward.
MW: Our work is all about capacity building, another form of leadership development – to leave our members better off than they were before we got there to provide additional support. Now the state of Mississippi even comes to us for help. Just a little over year and a half into the formation of the Alliance, it is significant that state agencies are coming to us.
SM: The Innovations Lab is an internet-based portal for philanthropy and nonprofits to learn and connect and it includes a capacity self-assessment that can lead to organizations connecting over common interests. We’ll be ramping that up in early 2021 and anticipate it will be a model for others.
NP: A lot of small nonprofits will especially benefit from the Innovations Lab’s ability to connect foundations and nonprofits, and to connect to other nonprofits in their similar mission area or type of work to find ways to work together.
Is there a day in your work you remember as extraordinary or special?
DM: This spring, probably in April or May, despite the tragedies and loss of lives that the state and the country were dealing with, was an amazing time to be with the Alliance and see how our organization could leverage incredible partnerships to help in our state. This work included surveys, getting the word out about programs and support at a rapid pace, and making sure that the response was strategic, impactful, and tuned in to real and evolving needs. We were also part of supporting nonprofit organizations trying to stay afloat. There was a good month and a half of rapid response that has and will continue to lead to operational and programmatic pieces that will be in place for some time.
SM: We have unique partnerships through our network of volunteer and nonprofit hubs across the state connected to the United Way and to community foundations. We have an incredible asset through these eight regional hubs with full-time staff and that was a key part of our ability to respond and support in the state, to mobilize these hubs as part of an emergency response network.
KE: This time has really showed us that nonprofits do not get time off or the opportunity for a pause in the way some other organizations might — food distributions, clothing distributions, and all these kinds of needs were efforts the hubs were a part of, as well as disaster relief in some areas.
SM: We have also been working to distribute millions of dollars in CARES Act funds to nonprofits. This work is in partnership with the Community Foundation Affinity Group and the Mississippi Development Authority.
What is one of your favorite places to be in your community
EC: I’m missing being in the office and the community that comes with being there with the other staff.
MW: I’m chomping at the bit to get out in the community. I miss meeting with members at their offices to help them. And I miss getting a hug from people outside my family…a good old Mississippi hug.
SM: It’s all of the communities that we work with rather than just one that comes to mind. We’re now recruiting for a staff member to work with members throughout the state, and their focus will be turning outward to members in their communities (thinking of the approach by Rich Harwood and IS member The Harwood Institute).
Is there an unsung hero on your team you’d like to recognize? What makes this person special?
DM: Nancy and Mary Ellen (our consultants). They were the ones that really got me going in my position when I started earlier this year. I’m fortunate that I was able to meet them in-person and get a real hug from them soon before we had to start working from home. They’ve provided me with great inspiration and guidance.
SM: When the idea of merging to become the Alliance arose, the board of chairs of the two organizations were not led by ego or concerns about their turf. They didn’t let competition interfere and were open to exploring the idea. Joe Donovan, who served as the interim executive director at the Mississippi Center for Nonprofits, came to me to talk about a way to work together better and he was persistent in addressing it – had he not been, I don’t think we would be where we are with the Alliance.
NP: Local representatives from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation were also so helpful in helping us figure out the process for the merger. We found no one in the state had ever done something like this before, but they were so helpful in thinking about partnerships, overcoming roadblocks, and implementing strategies to support the changes.
Learn more about the Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy at https://alliancems.org/.
Visit Independent Sector’s members page to learn more about our members and the wide spectrum of their missions.