Mass. Nonprofit Leaders Told Path Ahead 'Will Be Difficult'

October 15, 2020 — The next 18 months “will be long and difficult” for nonprofits, and operations will not resume a sense of normalcy until 2022, Kevin Washington, president and CEO of the YMCA of the USA, told Massachusetts nonprofit leaders attending a virtual statewide conference today.

Acknowledging that his organization, as well as nonprofits in Massachusetts and elsewhere, are confronting what he called twin health emergencies—the coronavirus pandemic and systemic racism—Washington said nonprofits out of necessity must focus on survival and recovery.

However, he added, they cannot wait until the coronavirus pandemic ends to decide what to do beyond the short term; nonprofits “have to be on that path now.”

That means, among other things, continuing to advocate for federal funding since philanthropy, which will continue to play an important role next year and beyond, cannot fill all the sector’s needs in the face of diminished revenue and, often, increased demands.

The annual conference of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN), the state’s nonprofit trade association, drew 550 attendees for a two-week series of virtual meetings, just slightly lower than the 600 or so who usually attend what has been a one-day meeting.

Washington said the Y network, which encompasses 2,700 locations nationwide, is “having a reckoning with race,” and that it and other nonprofits need to counter systemic racism: “We reflect the country we serve. Racism is part of our past and our present.”

He said the Y has initiated an education and awareness building effort centered on diversity and inclusion “to become the organization we want to be,” which is “essential to the impact we want to have on communities and to organizational revitalization.”

Engaging young people and “elevating their voice” will be a critical component of that effort, he said.

Two Massachusetts Nonprofit Leaders Receive Lifetime Achievement Awards

At the conference, MNN honored two Massachusetts nonprofit leaders with lifetime achievement awards. They were:

Clementina Chéry

Clementina Chéry, founder, president, and CEO of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, a Boston nonprofit center of healing, teaching, and learning for families and communities impacted by murder, trauma, grief, and loss.

Since founding the center in 1994, Chéry used her experience as a survivor to serve families impacted by murder, advocate for survivors of violent crimes, and develop best practices for homicide response. With the support of elected officials, the institute provided the City of Boston with resources and guides, including The Survivors’ Burial and Resource Guide: A Step by Step Workbook for Regaining Control.

Chéry was named one of Boston’s 100 Most Influential Leaders of Color, was awarded the 2016 Impact Award by Phillips Brooks House Association at Harvard University, received the Champion of Peace Award from Salem State University, and was named Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

Jay Lynch

Jay Lynch, executive director since 1991 of the Brockton Area Arc, a Brockton-based nonprofit that advocates for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Prior to joining the organization, Lynch served with Brockton Area Multi-Services, Inc. for five years. His service as a VISTA volunteer in New York City led him to work in education in Brockton.

In 2018, Lynch received the Distinguished Professional Award for Diversity and Cultural Competency from the National Conference of Executives of The Arc.

Established in 1952, Brockton Area Arc today provides a range of services spanning day habilitation, employment, family support, and recreation programs. In recent years, in line with federal and state initiatives, it transitioned from a sheltered workshop environment to a community-based organization focused on jobs, services, and activities.