Stephen C. Nill, JD
You are part of a professional community that is nearly a quarter century old!
In this stage of my career, I have preferred to work behind the scenes with my colleagues rather than to be in the spotlight. But CharityChannel is nearly at its silver anniversary. If ever there was a time to step up and tell its story, this is it!
In early 1992, I was serving as Senior Vice President of Development of a California-based nonprofit hospital chain. The board had recruited me as part of a turnaround effort—the chain was in serious trouble. There was fear of it going under.
My mission was simple and daunting: change an underperforming fund development program into one that would complete seven- and eight-figure miracles within a year, two at most.
I succeeded, earning me a fair amount of positive attention, particularly from my peers in the philanthropic planning community because my strategy was to focus only on very large, structured donations.
As fulfilling as that intensive two years was, something much more important took place (though I scarcely realized it at the time) that was not only to change my career but would largely define my life’s work and help tens of thousands of busy nonprofit practitioners to be even better at what they do.
How CharityChannel Was Born
Here, then, is how CharityChannel was born:
I had recruited a team of allied professionals consisting of lawyers, real estate agents, planned giving officers, and support staff into our theretofore underperforming fund development program. I wanted a way to give these new team members rapid access to their peers working in other nonprofit organizations, especially since most of them had never worked for a nonprofit before. Quaint as it now sounds, in 1992 my idea was quite leading edge: I set up a server to run an email listserve. We called the first email discussion list “CharityTalk.” I had our staff members subscribe and invited some of our counterparts across town to join as well.
Within a week, we had two dozen nonprofit professionals discussing their day-to-day challenges. Within a month, over 300. In six months, over 2,000. It kept growing as more and more busy nonprofit professionals learned about it by word of mouth. I have to admit; I had not foreseen that kind of interest. Something big was happening. It got my attention!
Over the next months and years, I added more discussion lists to focus on different professional topic areas. To make a long story short, we grew to over 150 professional discussion communities. I was astonished to find that we were sending out a million and a half emails a month through our servers.
The CharityChannel professional community grew to encompass over 100,000 nonprofit professionals by the end of our first decade.
In late 2001, on the heels of the attack on the twin towers, CharityChannel’s most experienced and accomplished practitioners were invited to contribute down-to-earth and conversationally written online articles. More than 250 top experts in our sector, all members of the CharityChannel professional community, have now written more than 2,000 articles for their peers in our professional community.
There is a lot more to our story, and, over the next few weeks, I'll share more of our history as well as the exciting, ground-breaking future of our nearly quarter-century-old professional community.
But for now, I hope that you will share in the immense pride that I have in the accomplishments of this wonderful professional community to which you and I belong.
Until next time...
Stephen C. Nill, JD, GPC
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