LaSalle University launches the Small Nonprofit Learning Center - Generocity Philly

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Sep. 30, 2019 8:00 am

LaSalle University launches the Small Nonprofit Learning Center

"While there’s no denying that bigger nonprofits have some distinct advantages, we celebrate what small nonprofits can achieve by strengthening core infrastructures," says Laura Otten, director of the university's Nonprofit Center.

According to Laura Otten, director of LaSalle's Nonprofit Center, nearly 60% of nonprofits in this country operate with budgets under $250,000.

(Courtesy photo)

Anyone who has ever been involved with a small nonprofit knows that the work comes with its own set of unique rewards and challenges.

Small nonprofits are generally mission-driven, grassroots organizations focused on solving local issues. They may have a single staff member or be purely volunteer-run. This structure allows the nonprofit to take risks and try new things, but it also means that they must figure out how to carry out the mission with limited resources. For many small organizations, just figuring out how to operate successfully can be a challenge.

“Nearly 60 percent of nonprofits in this country operate with budgets under $250,000,” said Laura Otten, director of LaSalle University’s Nonprofit Center, “and they are often under enormous pressure to deliver services with the barest minimum of resources.” To address the unique needs of these organizations, the Nonprofit Center is launching a brand-new initiative called the Small Nonprofit Learning Center.

Otten has served as a consultant and instructor at LaSalle for over 35 years. She has led the Center since 2001 and is the inaugural director of La Salle University’s master’s program in Nonprofit Leadership. During her tenure at LaSalle, she has worked with organizations of all sizes. She is keenly aware that while best practices apply to nonprofits both large and small, the small nonprofits need help learning how to apply those practices in a way that makes sense for them.

"We have been told over decades that executive directors like to learn together, in groups with their peers ... the same thing applies to small nonprofits."
Laura Otten

“We started the Small Nonprofit Learning Center for two reasons,” Otten said, “first, as a way to pay homage to the fact that the vast majority of nonprofits are small, and second,  to address the feedback we have received from small nonprofits that they felt like most of the workshops they were attending were not relevant to them.”

“‘We are not the Red Cross’ is what we’d often hear,” she said, “and while there’s no denying that bigger nonprofits have some distinct advantages, we celebrate what small nonprofits can achieve by strengthening core infrastructures: fundraising, finances, boards and staff.”

“We have been told over decades that executive directors like to learn together, in groups with their peers, so that they are not self-conscious when they ask questions,” Otten continued. “The interesting thing is that we are finding the same thing applies to small nonprofits.”

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“While I can see the value in having a class composed of people from a variety of differently-sized organizations, we were finding that staff members from smaller organizations were feeling embarrassed to speak up in class, feeling like they were exposing what they saw as weaknesses in their organizations,” she added. “With these new classes, we hope to offer them a space to learn where no one is looking at them or judging them, and where they can learn with and from their peers.”

The four half-day classes in this series are designed for the unique circumstances of the small nonprofit. People may take as few or as many classes as they want and a discount will be given to organizations that take all four classes, even if different people attend.

Each half-day class will run from 9 a.m to noon and will be held at various locations throughout Center City. Here are the dates and online registration links:

There is a $25 discount when taking all four of the classes in the series. Use the code SMALL when registering.

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