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Executive Director, The Center for Nonprofit Leadership at Drury University
Executive Director, The Center for Nonprofit Leadership at Drury University

2016 Nonprofit Outlook: Dan Prater

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Dan Prater is entrenched in the Springfield nonprofit community, which employed over 50 percent of workers in the Queen City through 1,556 organizations and represented 38 percent of the city’s gross domestic product in 2014.

2016 Projection Several nonprofit leaders will resign with retirements on the horizon.

SBJ: What are the characteristics of nonprofits in Springfield?
Dan Prater: It’s such a broad spectrum. There are 28 categories of tax-exempt organizations. But typically, nonprofits fall into tiers. The big tier would be a nonprofit operating much like a corporation – with a large infrastructure. So, the hospitals, Drury and Evangel universities are among the well-established organizations with a lot of employees that have a significant impact. The middle-tier groups are very important to the community, as well. After-school programs and feeding programs on any given day are helping hundreds of people. A middle-tier agency would be like the Doula Foundation. It does really good work and only has a handful of employees. And the third tier is the groups that are almost unknown. They have maybe one half-time employee and everybody else is a volunteer. (Republic Paw Pantry) is a classic example. One coordinator who is trying to do fundraising and volunteer management.

SBJ: What trends are you seeing take shape?
Prater: Something that’s happened over the past three months, I just helped the Humane Society find a new director. The Doula Foundation director has resigned. The director of Victory Mission has resigned. With another prominent nonprofit, the CEO, she is leaving. There has been a whole surge of leaders who have resigned or are leaving. All of them fall within that age group where they’re saying, “I’ve done this 20-something years and I’m tired.” So, transition planning or succession planning is a significant issue.

SBJ: How is fundraising changing?
Prater: If you want to get money from (a) foundation, you have to do more than say, “We want money, and we do good work.” This is the movement I’m seeing in the nonprofit industry. You can tell me that you fed X number of kids last year, and I might think you’re a good guy, but you know what I’m going to force you to do before I give a penny is show me how feeding kids addressed the problem. The shift I see is savvy funders no longer want to fund activities. They now fund outcomes. That’s an important distinction.

SBJ: As larger nonprofits in the health sector grapple with health care reform, does this put more pressure on their foundations? And is there a ripple effect where smaller nonprofits have to fight with those bigger groups for the same donor dollars?
Prater: I can address the ripple effect. Not only does the ripple effect apply with this law, but also with every failure of government, the nonprofit community is always there to pick up the pieces.

We must collaborate. And Springfield is a model community for collaboration. The (Missouri State University) and Mercy collaboration is a good example. Another classic example of collaboration is the (Community Foundation of the Ozarks’) new project called The Northwest Project. That is going to be in the news big-time. It’s a Zone 1 Springfield project, and there’s a multimillion-dollar grant to address poverty. It’s modeled after a program in Jacksonville, Fla., where they took 1,000 people out of poverty in 1,000 days. And we’re implementing that in Springfield.

SBJ: Is Springfield generous for its size? According to the 2014 How America Gives study, city residents gave 4.3 percent of their gross income, which did outpace the 3.2 percent statewide average.
Prater: We have a giving community. We have families and individuals and for-profit corporations that go way above and beyond what would be expected of any person.

We could do a better job of engaging people in the middle class. We’re real good at getting people with money and corporations, but sometimes we have a tendency to overlook people who could give those $40, $50 and $100 gifts, too. That’s an area where I would like to see all of the nonprofits grow.

SBJ: Does Springfield have too many nonprofits? Is there overlap in services?
Prater: I get asked that question a lot. Here’s the classic thing, you are crystal clear on the work you do, but if you did the man-on-the-street interview, you’ve got the CAC, CASA, OACAC, CASP, and on and on. You’ve also got CAPE. Is it any wonder people can’t keep it straight? It’s confusing. However, in my experience, there really is very little duplication. The CAC doesn’t do what CASA does. They both deal in the arena of child abuse and neglect, but they don’t do the same thing. They actually share information and try to help one another.

In our (2014) study, we did an analysis to see if we had too many. Springfield, per capita, in every analysis comparing us to Columbia to Independence to Wichita, [Kan.,] Tulsa, [Okla.,] Little Rock, [Ark.,] and in the U.S. to other comparably sized cities, we were in the middle. In other words, we don’t have too many, and we don’t have too few.

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