by Josh Jacobson

Happy New Year! Can I still say that? I heard someone say that wishing someone a happy new year is valid until January 8, and then no longer. So looking at the calendar… it counts. Just barely.

Did you have a great holiday break? Was it really a break? Thankfully it was for us at Next Stage. After a year that saw our firm crank it up considerably with our incubator for emerging nonprofits (CULTIVATE) and dynamic client partnerships with organizations like Arts+ and Care Ring, we took a well-deserved B-R-E-A-K. I didn’t touch my laptop for a solid week. And if you know me well, you know that just never happens.

But before we took off, Caylin and I sat down for a strategic planning retreat that was game-changing. I’ll reiterate – GAME. CHANGING. Five years since it was founded, Next Stage now has a clear pathway forward and a vision for what we aspire to do as change agents. After telling countless nonprofits that a galvanizing vision is the single most important ingredient to success, we’ve taken our own medicine. It’s exciting and affirming and all the good words. We’re onboarding new project management and CRM tools to make it easier to work with us, for clients and colleagues both. Growth is on the horizon.

We see the following themes playing prominent roles for Next Stage in 2019:

  1. Bridging the Talent – Have you seen local nonprofit jobs boards lately? They’re nuts. No matter the time of year, Charlotte nonprofits are in a near-constant churn of talent across executive, programmatic, operational, marketing and development roles. To complicate matters, this availability is matched by a pronounced void of nonprofit talent. It seems Charlotte’s best nonprofit talent has hunkered down (as one person said to me recently, “the devil you know”) while too few experienced professionals exist to fill the gaps. Next Stage has heard from several organizations of late who received no valid applicants (Zero. Zilch. Nada.) when they advertised their open positions. This year, Next Stage is diving deeply into candidate recruitment, focusing on building an important bridge from Charlotte’s robust for-profit sector to critical roles in the nonprofit sector. It’s time we stopped complaining about the state of talent and instead did something about it.
  2. Redefining Corporate Sponsorship – For the last few years, we’ve been on a quest to reposition the bottom-line role nonprofits can play inside Charlotte-area companies as well as shift the thinking inside nonprofits about how and why companies are likely to be interested in supporting them. It’s been exhausting. And thrilling. And frustrating. And so very badly needed. In 2019, we are dialing up these efforts up considerably. Long-term partnerships with prominent local nonprofits are allowing us to build and test a new value proposition for the sector that goes beyond nonprofit engagement as a nice-to-have but rather a vital need-to-have for companies interested in keeping the very best talent. We see this becoming a big part of Next Stage moving forward, working with nonprofits to align their sponsorship efforts while working with companies to establish/reposition corporate social responsibility efforts.
  3. Evolution of CULTIVATE – Next week, we welcome six nonprofit founders to the 2ndcohort of CULTIVATE, effectively doubling the number of organizations participating this year. Are we crazy? Maybe so. But we also know how important this program is to the people who participated in 2018. Our hearts are so darn wrapped up in these social cause champions that we just can’t contain ourselves (or the program). But rest assured, we’ve figured out a way to share the love across our firm, with Caylin stepping up into a more prominent project management role and me focused more on training and coaching. Last year we wrote a 100,000+ word curriculum to undergird the program (yea, seriously), so this year we can devote more time to connecting it to participating organizations. It’s going to be an adventure!

Above all, we are shifting to a more proactive firm. We have a blueprint and our goal is to see it realized. Wish us luck. Or better yet, let us buy you coffee and tell you more.

Photo Credit: Julia Fay Photography