NYN Media’s 2024 Opcon highlights best practices for nonprofit operations

Experts gathered to discuss investments in automation, improved communications and more.

Attendees at New York Nonprofit Media's 2024 Opcon at Hebrew Union College on June 6, 2024.

Attendees at New York Nonprofit Media's 2024 Opcon at Hebrew Union College on June 6, 2024. Rita Thompson

At New York Nonprofit Media’s 2024 Opcon, nonprofit leaders shared best strategies to optimize operations – from investing in automation practices to ensuring robust communication across all stages of leadership. The annual event, held at Hebrew Union College, gathered experts across the sector who highlighted the importance of fostering a culture of accountability and mission-driven storytelling. 

With nonprofit organizations facing various challenges in retaining good staff, managing funding sources, and streamlining processes, panelists stressed the importance of integrating facets of compliance and efficiency in nonprofit operations. 

“When you streamline processes and how that relates to technology, the first step is to […[ start breaking the process down into different phases, because then you have more compliance and so you get more unification of processes,” said event panelist Patrick Yurgosky, president of Yurgosky Consulting. “But where you start to get a lot of value in data technology is automation. You want to automate those things that always happen.” 

Yurgosky also noted that standardizing processes should start with the most highly regulated areas of business, such as financial documenting procedures and human resources. 

“HR is another really good spot, like how do you manage some processes like creating a job description or hiring somebody,” Yurgosky told attendees. “There's a lot of apps that have those processes already embedded into it, and so you don't need to recreate it. But overall, that's a good spot of where you would buy versus build. When you're buying technology, you're buying a process. […] A lot of times you can just buy something that aligns with your processes, or adjust some of your processes.” 

Panelists also discussed the benefits of hybrid work models, which offer flexibility and cost savings. While implementing such models require intentional planning to address technical aspects, speakers discussed challenges related to designing hybrid spaces such as reassessing office spaces and addressing tax implications of leasing or subleasing property.

“What you should think about is within your organization, especially if you're large, […] is how many people share one seat,” said Stephen Powers, co-founder of OPEN Impact Real Estate. 

“Once you figure out within those teams, what those ratios are, and who needs to be in the office at the same time for productivity, for collaboration and training – then you can think about the right type of hybrid strategy for your organization, because the worst thing to do is to not have a plan in place, and to tell people to come in one or two days a week [without the] resources they need to actually deliver on the work in a productive, efficient way. Be intentional and really plan this out.” 

Queens Deputy Borough President Ebony Young stressed the importance of sharing influential leadership practices and the importance of mission-oriented leadership. 

“A lot of time, this whole dictatorial concept on how we speak to board how we speak to staff members, you know, there's obligations, and we get that. Obligations have to be met. But there's something about creating influential skills that helps to really scale an organization in a different way. Because while people feel obligated, they feel inspired,” Young said at the event.

Panelist Stephanie Royal, chief people & culture officer of Robin Hood, underlined the importance of tailoring leadership styles across various levels of management. 

“I always say to our staff and to folks that I coach that you've got to find your leadership, superpower and leverage that, Royal said. And it's absolutely essential, you know, to really sit back and assess like, who are, who are you as a leader? There can be a leader in every seat, and part of my leadership is being able to empower the leadership of others. 

Royal also shared her insight on empathetic problem solving to drive organizations towards success and resilience. 

“I firmly believe in, and I share this with my children, I've shared this with my staff is to lead with love. We have to lead with love, particularly in the environment in which we are in now, where there is so much uncertainty, so much upheaval,” Royal told attendees. “We just don't know. But if you go back to the core of what makes life good, what makes life fulfilling, you bring that into your work, and I guarantee you will have better outcomes when you leave with love.”

Correction: Earlier versions of this story misattributed a quote that was said by panelist Patrick Yurgosky, president of Yurgosky Consulting.

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