July 31, 2012, WASHINGTON, DC— More than 800 people—representing 160 of InsideNGO’s member nongovernmental organizations—converged in Washington, DC’s Convention Center to kick off the first day of the InsideNGO annual conference.
We are here “to celebrate 35 years of networking, learning, sharing and generosity,” said Alison Smith, InsideNGO’s executive director, introducing the conference.
To InsideNGO, generosity—the conference’s theme—not only means reflecting on how colleagues within the international NGO community have helped each other to operate with excellence over time, but also how the community will collaborate in the future to shape innovative solutions and ideas in an industry ever constrained by increasingly complex regulations and diminishing funds.
Also introducing the event, James Tuite, InsideNGO’s board chairman, encouraged attendees to engage, ask questions and develop relationships.
“It is no longer sufficient to practice only in our areas of specialty,” he said. “Our need to work beyond areas of comfort is more important than ever.”
Because of that need and the growing complexity of the NGO industry, this year’s conference included sessions within two broader tracks—cross-operations, and professional, organizational and career development—in addition to sessions on finance, grants and contracts; human resources; and information technology.
“We offer sessions that follow developing trends in our sector, such as mergers and acquisitions, outsourcing and more,” said Tuite.
Keynote speaker, tech startup executive and bestselling author Tim Sanders was introduced by InsideNGO Chief Operating Officer Tom Dente. Sanders reminded the audience that the mission of operations staff is critical to NGOs, calling their journeys heroic. “You are not the overhead,” he chanted.
As mission-critical employees, he encouraged them to choose generosity in their work over negative through patterns.
“It is only in sharing that we truly appreciate the opportunities in our professional life,” said Sanders.
Generosity inevitably will lead to a happier workplace for all, he said. “Organizations make more money, have less defects and make more with less when people are happy, come together and are highly engaged.”
According to Sanders, generosity—with knowledge, networks and compassion—is particularly integral to making the workplace productive. He recommended that managers read valuable books about their industries and pass their “seeds of wisdom” to their employees. People should aim to create “a map of goodwill” by connecting people who could have mutually beneficial relationships despite how those relationships would benefit the person connecting them, he said.
Lastly, he said it is important, in any industry, to try to catch people doing something right with same vigor as trying to call people out on their mistakes.
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