Marc Hardy is a Renaissance man: Nonprofit leader, award-winning faculty member, renowned public speaker, author, TV and radio host, actor, director and playwright.
Hardy currently is Director of Nonprofit Executive Programs at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, where he leads campus-based and 100% online executive certificate programs. His résumé includes more than 20 years of leadership experience in the nonprofit sector, and he also has lectured on nonprofit management and leadership at Butler University and Indiana University, and led a think-tank.
Notre Dame’s Nonprofit Executive Programs seek to develop exemplary leaders in the rapidly changing and growing nonprofit sector.
From 1994 to 2007, the number of nonprofit organizations in the United States jumped by almost 50%, to more than 1.6 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of workers in the nonprofit sector increased from 5.4 million to 8.7 million over the same period.
By 2010, nearly 11 million people were working for nonprofit organizations, representing about 10% of the nation’s private sector workforce, the 2012 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey found. Only manufacturing and retail employed more people.
The recent recession has presented significant challenges for nonprofit organizations, which must balance rising demand for their services with falling funding levels.
We spoke with Hardy about his work in the nonprofit sector and his thoughts about what the future holds for charitable and nonprofit organizations.
How did you get started in the nonprofit world?
It started with my childhood. My father was a founder of the Harris Township (Indiana) Volunteer Fire Department. The fire department would hold events to raise funds – such as a periodic fish fry, a talent show to raise money for the volunteer fire station – and every Christmas he would play the role of Santa Claus, giving gifts to the kids of the poor in the community from the donations they raised.
My mother would bake goods to also help raise donations and the two of them created a tradition which permeated into me.
Years later when my father died, I learned from others the stories of what he had done for them as they expressed themselves in gratitude, expanding my awareness of the power of giving.
Do you foresee an expansion or decline in the number of nonprofits? What is the current trend?
I see an expansion in some areas and a decline in others for the reason that investments are going up and individual donors and foundations are going to have more wealth in the next 30 to 40 years. There is going to be a tremendous transfer of wealth from one generation to the other and that is going to have a huge impact in the nonprofit sector.
On the other hand, I see government funding shrinking because of the budget deficit. So there are some sectors that will grow, while other sectors that receive government funding will probably consolidate and shrink for a while.
Which method of donation solicitation do you consider to be most effective?
It’s definitely the one-on-one relationship; building the relationship. When people talk about fundraising, they talk about getting the big gifts. The fact is you don’t get those big gifts unless you, (A), have a relationship with the donor, and (B), believe in your mission. That is really central to any fundraising.
My advice to any nonprofit is to build relationships with people. You know, there are stories of people who have given only $100 a year and yet when they died they left $5 million to the organization. That’s because of the relationship that was built up over time.
So, it’s about relationships, and educating people about the importance of your mission.
How do you reach that donor?
It usually begins with volunteering. It’s a proven statistic that donors who volunteer give more money than donors who don’t. So if you’re not asking your donors to volunteer in your organization, you’re really shooting yourself in the foot.
A lot of organizations think, ‘Well they have already given money, I don’t want to ask them for their time.’ The fact is people like to be engaged; they want to be involved, know what’s going on. So if they’re donating to your organization, they see the good you are doing and they are experiencing the commitment to that organization first hand. And so you cultivate those people who already have an interest, and then they bring other people to events you throw and those kinds of things.
How do you see technology, including mobile and social media, playing a role in the nonprofit sector?
It’s going to be huge. We’re doing a six-day session right now on social media marketing for nonprofits because there is such a need out there. And there is so much demand and nobody knows what they are doing. Yet, they have to be in that space or they are not going to be able to survive and compete.
It’s going to be a huge growth area in the nonprofit sector – an area that more and more nonprofits are panicked about, quite frankly, because they know they need to be there, but they don’t know how to get there or how to know how much they should invest.
Can you give us examples of quality nonprofit models and discuss what makes them sustainable?
For the average donor, if they have a substantial amount of money they want to give, they want to kind of know what the better organizations are. Two kinds of organizations to look at would be the United Way, because it funds a lot of different nonprofits and so the nonprofits are already vetted; but even more importantly, community foundations. And part of [the donor’s] job is to know what is going on in their community and what organizations are effective and are doing good work. I think those two areas are two of the best.
If you could recommend only one book about the nonprofit world, what would it be and why?
Wow, one book. I’ve read so many of them. I would recommend “Nonprofit Governance,” by Tom Harvey and John Tropman, because it is a very user-friendly book. It’s not an academic book. It has very short chapters so you can really apply the knowledge right away.
If you really want to get in-depth into nonprofits there’s a book called “Nonprofit Research Handbook,” printed I believe in 2006. It is a series. In fact, I refer to a couple of chapters of that in my video on the history of the nonprofit sector. It is probably one of the most thorough overviews of the nonprofit sector that is out there.
What is the background of the typical participant you’re seeing in your nonprofit courses?
One who has a big heart and comes from the humanities or education area, but does not have the business skills to run a nonprofit and needs to fill those gaps.
To hear more from Marc Hardy, including blog posts and video interviews with nonprofit executives and thought-leaders, visit www.sharingfire.com.