As I mentioned in my previous two blog posts about the GMN 2016 annual conference, we asked conference attendees to respond to the following question: Where are you on your journey to measuring outcomes and impact? The choices were Minimal/Basic; Developing; and Strategic/Integrated. Here is the final tally:

  • Minimal/Basic: 41%
  • Developing: 48%
  • Strategic/Integrated: 11%

As discussed in yesterday’s blog post, these results correlate to the research that we conducted while developing our outcomes measurement solution, Blackbaud Outcomes™.

GMN 2016 came to a conclusion with a rousing closing keynote from Dr. Albert Ruesga, President & CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation—a customer of ours, I’m proud to say.

“Be a Learning Organization.”

Dr. Ruesga began by acknowledging the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. He said that this tragic event brought out many heroes to step up and respond when there was a failure of local and federal government. There was a significant disaster response effort, which then turned into recovery and rebuilding efforts that are still ongoing.

Part of the success story of the post-Katrina New Orleans is the burgeoning entrepreneurial environment that has resulted in creative problem-solving. This spirit and creativity is unequivocally needed to address the tough work still to be done.

To reinforce this notion, Dr. Ruesga passed along the jaw-dropping stat that according to a 2012 study conducted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, there is as much as a 25 year difference in life expectancy between people living in the poorest zip code in Orleans Parish, LA, which has a majority of African-American residents, and those living in less impoverished and mostly white zip codes. The audience gasped.

Improving the philanthropic sector

While Dr. Ruesga acknowledged the wonderful work that everyone in the room was doing, he said that we need to closely examine the sector in order to improve it.

Here are a few of Dr. Ruesga’s 22 theses for how the philanthropic sector can improve on its efforts:

  • Despite the very best intentions of individual foundations, the collective actions of foundations have failed to significantly address some of the most basic injustices in our society.
  • There is a great need for foundations to be more vocal about the responsibilities of citizens. Foundations are often slow-moving and not doing enough debating and introspection.
  • The positive aspects of foundation culture are significant— striving for improvement, dedication to a mission, and supporting one another.
  • Negative characteristics of foundation culture are also significant and tend to go largely unaddressed—ego, siloed activities, and poor internal processes.
  • Foundations tend to reinvent the wheel rather than building upon others’ efforts, and are generally unaware of how to truly relate to the people and communities that they aim to serve.
  • We need more evaluation and measurement as this is vital to moving a cause forward and the only way to improve.
  • The language we use around defining missions and goals is unnecessarily convoluted. Why can’t we just use simple language to define what we’re doing?
  • The twentieth thesis stated that we will forever knock our heads against some of our society’s most intractable problems and make little progress addressing them as long as we ignore their social justice dimensions. Dr. Ruesga felt that social injustices tend to be the root of societal woes.

Our philanthropic work should be grounded in morality, and in our desire to help others. -Dr. Albert Ruesga

He concluded by asking the audience for suggestions for additions to his list. There was not a response to add anything, but one audience member asked if he could share Dr. Ruesga’s theses with his board! This was met with cheers and applause.

Many thanks to GMN, the presenters, attendees, fellow sponsors and our customers for a great and inspiring conference!


As Director of Marketing at MicroEdge + Blackbaud, Jamie Serino is responsible for driving market leadership, demand generation, branding, strategic events and communications for the Foundations & Corporate Markets group. For more than 15 years, Jamie has developed and led transformational marketing and communication strategies in both B-to-B and B-to-C technology industries including financial services, network security, CRM, Internet telephony and HR/Recruiting technology. Jamie began his career working with nonprofit organizations that served people with developmental disorders and mental illness. In addition, he has helped nonprofit organizations promote causes related to disaster preparedness, pediatric cancer, clean energy and ocean conservation. Jamie holds a B.A. in Psychology from Binghamton University.

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