Returning to Southeast Pennsylvania: Delaware and Bucks County

Sandy Anne JohnOn a gorgeous spring day (May 7), we headed to Media, PA, where we were hosted by long-term PANO friends, Sandy Lutz and John Nihill, and Elko & Associates. We give a special shout-out to Elko and Associates because they not only welcomed this focus group with a delicious lunch, but they then co-hosted a training session with PANO that evening around our Standards for Excellence Program! Thanks too to PANO board member, Greg Lindemuth, who helped to make the Listening Tour connection.


Individuals living in Delaware County stated that they loved Delaware County because:

  • Historical riches in the area
  • Close access to both the city and to horse country
  • Passion of the people who work here—especially those in the nonprofit community
  • Diversity of perspective and backgrounds
  • Willingness of people to help others
  • People are connected to the community (e.g. local schools)
  • Cultural riches
  • Convenient location—with ease of access to train  station and airport
  • Academic institutions which bring young talent into the area
  • Area is beginning to be a hub of technology


  • A peaceful, safe environment
  • Everyone would have access to education
  • Everyone would be gainfully employed
  • No hunger would exist
  • Everyone would have a home
  • People could age in place
  • Tax laws would support the ability to do all these things
  • Greater collaboration
  • Toleration of divergent opinions
  • More long-term planning
  • Nonprofits would be seen as a place to try new, entrepreneurial ideas
  • Return on Investment in community work would be clear
  • Investment in long-term results would break the cycle of ____________ (fill in the blank)
  • Community would have vision and leadership
  • Community would be aware of all resources
  • Greater accountability/transparency
  • Fewer nonprofits with a coordinated delivery system
  • Ability to compromise


Following are the things we heard as issues from people living in Delaware County, listed in no particular order:

Engage Boards strategically

  • Engaged boards, leading to better board governance
  • Boards are driven by strategic direction
  • Boards connect organizations to the community
  • Conduct board assessments & ask about skill sets

Invest in workforce differently

  • Need to invest in workforce education
  • Need to decrease benefits in nonprofit sector and increase salaries
  • Turnover is a big cost

Engage in research

  • Analyze and engage with the state on a regional basis
  • Conduct donor surveys

Create a culture of solution-based conversations

  • Convene around issues to solve
  • Conduct collaboration conversations

CEO’s as Entrepreneurs

  • CEO Evaluation (and others) needed to ensure that leaders remain entrepreneurial over time (e.g. similarities exist between nonprofits and entrepreneurs)
  • Leaders need to move on when their skill-set is no longer relevant

Parallels drawn between nonprofit and for-profit sectors

  • Create a business model to bring value to members

Focus Group 2

Common Vision

  • Change determined by common vision rather than by individual missions

Provide thought leadership

  • In a time of funding changes

Engage in Advocacy

  • Efficient notification of “loony tune” legislation

Promote the sector (not as a “black hole for resources”)

  • Use social media to talk about positive economic development

Ask for constant feedback and be willing to take hard feedback

Difficult decisions must be made

MileStoneFocus GroupOn May May 21, our enthusiastic friends and partners at MileStone Bank, Linda Bishop, Vice President and Esther Hughes, Relationship Manager, invited us back for another round of conversations in Bucks County.  Many, many thanks to MileStone for their ongoing support of bringing together individuals and organizations from across sectors to think about ways to doing business differently!


This group of individuals living in Bucks County stated that they love the following about their community:

  • Collaboration among ED’s (especially women) and likeminded groups – who they know well
  • Bucks county – creative energy
  • Architecture
  • Culture
  • Scenery
  • Best of both worlds – city and country
  • Outstanding school districts
  • Variety of educational opportunities (e.g. Bucks County Community College)
  • Family opportunities – ways for families to play and learn together of all ages and build relationship s with each other
  • County has distinctly different characteristics depending on where you live (upper, lower, etc.)
  • Region has great resource of businesses who have been philanthropic
  • History


  • All parts of county would understand each other’s needs more thoroughly
  • More equity in standard of living and affordable resources
  • Better collaboration would occur because everyone would know about other causes (e.g. Operation Home Front  is not very well known)
  • Safe, joyful lives for every one
  • Excitement around the differences; understanding that  not one size fits all, but that  it’s a collaboration
  • Identify and employ the strengths and capabilities of gifted people–with companies downsizing, lots of gifted people who are not ready to retire
  • People would find fulfillment throughout lifespan
  • Everyone feels like their contribution is valued which will lead to a feeling of confidence rather than fear
  • Community would be educated about philanthropic opportunities
  • People would be held accountable for being a Just Society
  • Community would continually reinvest  in itself and lead to perpetual growth

MileStone Group


Following are the things we heard as issues from people living in Bucks County, listed in no particular order:

Collaboration is critical

  • Silos must be broken down
  • To take down county silos we must get out of Bucks County
  • Competition leads to complementary vs. duplicated services
  • Collaboration takes into account the strengths of all partners
  • Hidden agendas must be taken away
  • Strategic alliances are important
  • New organizations/ideas should look for organizations already doing the work and direct their passion to assist those organizations
  • Find groups that are already meeting and working
  • Show models of collaboration that WORK. Show how collaboration can lead to a greater focus on meeting both vision and mission
  • Passion can be captured and accessed more effectively if everyone works at not duplicating back-office work

Common Vision always keeps the ends in mind

  • Common vision focused on issues, not on organizations
  • Thriving communities mean that all sectors work together
  • Boards need to be educated about common vision
  • Find the 2% you can agree on and start from there
  • Change the language (e.g. Pollyanna Principles)

Match Maker: Databank needed to match skills with needs

  • Database which sorts by issue/or cause—and can showcase what everyone else is doing (IT, Fundraising, etc.)
  • Include local foundations and what they support
  • Sort by county and sub-county level
  • (See PA Bankers Association’s database, which builds on strengths, the wisdom of all and Cultural Data Projects as examples)

Trust is needed for collaborations to work

  • Trust is built through relationships and connections
  • Trust = credibility, reliability, accountability divided by self-orientation
  • Egos must be left at the door and work from a place of humility

Invest realistic time and dollars into creating thriving communities

  • People need to be clear about the time needed to create true change. Grants that are focused on a one-year change effort may not be realistic. Also, our own expectations often set us up to not plan for the time actually needed
  • Funders need to understand the need to invest in organizational infrastructure (not just programs)


Address root problems (e.g. jobs, addiction)

  • People need to be clear about the time needed to create true change

Provide messaging and branding for the sector

  • Sector needs unified message that everyone buys into: “To create a thriving community, this is what we must do…”

Sector must be based in accountability and trust

  • Accountability and trust need to be reestablished

Engage more individuals –and capture their passion

  • Ask for time, talent and treasure

Professionalize the workforce to build needed credibility

  • Can be done through education and access to best practice policies

Create a “Victory Sheet” of What’s Working

Quantify the economic impact of what the sector contributes

Focus on Implementing Community Level Problem Solving

Create a LinkedIn for the PA Nonprofit Sector

Thanks, again to Sandy Lutz and John Nihill and Elko and Associates hosting us at their offices in Media and to Linda Bishop and Esther Hughes for hosting their second focus group for PANO’s Listening Tour at the Milestone Bank’s offices in Doylestown.

And as always, a special thanks to Maher Duessel, CPAs for partnering with PANO to make this Listening Tour Possible!

We Together WILL create thriving communities!

LTMaterialsJOIN THE “WE”

If you want to join the conversation and participate in some way, don’t want to wait until we come to your community.

– Complete the Listening To PA Survey
– Follow us on Twitter
– Like us on Facebook

At PANO, WE are not interested in PANO—we are interested in what WE can do with all of you. Join us.  Join the WE!

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