Through state associations, local nonprofit organizations collaborate to manage and lead more effectively, increase their impact in their communities, and strengthen their collaborative voice on issues that affect both society and the nonprofit sector. A state association of nonprofits has the potential to provide services that will reduce the cost of doing business and increase the effectiveness of policy and advocacy agendas simultaneously. They have the ability to raise the ethical standards for all nonprofit organizations while increasing their overall effectiveness.
Currently, 43 state associations are making an impact in their nonprofit communities from Alaska to Hawaii and Florida, including Wisconsin. These state associations help strengthen the capacity of nonprofit organizations and speak on their behalf with their result of evoking meaningful and lasting change as well as helping to keep the public informed on the latest challenges and achievements in the nonprofit sector.
The idea of a statewide association of nonprofits is not new to Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Association of Nonprofit Organizations (WANO) was an early attempt to introduce this model. WANO served Wisconsin’s nonprofit organizations from 1993 – 1995, yet it never thrived. With a small planning grant and limited membership, its organizers were never able to expand membership by nonprofits or gain critical support from the philanthropic community. They were also unable to develop services for the nonprofits themselves within the start-up funding timetable.
During 2005, a geographically and organizationally diverse Steering Committee was selected to gather and guide a systematic approach to study the needs and impact of Wisconsin’s nonprofits and their potential interest in a state association. The Steering Committee was charged with guiding the process, developing the surveys, overseeing state meetings and contributing to the decision of proceeding, or not proceeding, with a state association to support Wisconsin’s nonprofits. The State Association of Wisconsin’s Nonprofits Project was completely under the direction of project co-leaders JoAnn Stormer, Executive Director at the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Program and Heidi Fisher, Director of Annual Giving and Major Gifts at the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.
The Steering Committee convened in October of 2005 to review the results of the feasibility report. They decided the results were overwhelmingly in favor of the formation of a state association. The results of the study clearly identified four service areas that Wisconsin nonprofit leaders deem important enough to justify the formation of the Wisconsin Nonprofits Association.
Since then we have worked hard to advocate for and educate the Wisconsin nonprofit sector of the issues that affect it. We have worked to educate you on your role in advocacy for the sector, threats that affect both our state and others, how to plan for and implement the proposed Overtime Regulations, and have expanded the number of cost-saving benefits that our member organizations receive. Moving forward, we plan on continuing to improve our cost-saving benefits to members, bringing back our annual summit and having a more active role in public policy creation.
As always, we are committed to improving Wisconsin nonprofits’ abilities to affect a positive impact in our communities by offering cost-saving benefits, providing opportunities for continuing education and learning about nonprofit advocacy, and advocating on behalf of Wisconsin nonprofits by backing positive legislation and working with lawmakers to prevent negative legislation that would hurt our sector.