Cindy’s Brazilian Adventure

April 27, 2017

We here at CNE were lucky to have been selected as a Fellowship Host for the 2016 Young Leaders of America Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows program. The U.S. Department of State operates the program, which is coordinated locally by a number of “hubs.” The Presidential Precinct functions as a hub and matches YLAI Fellows with local Fellowship Hosts. After hosting YLAI Fellow, Liz Silva of Brazil, CNE’s own Cindy Colson was selected to participate in a Reverse Exchange and spent two weeks in Brazil.

CNE: How was CNE selected for the YLAI program?
Cindy: Presidential Precinct considers each Fellow individually and tries to find a Host that best suites their interests and expertise. Liz’s for profit consulting firm, INK, works with a lot of nonprofits and shares best practices with them, especially around project management. Presidential Precinct saw an alignment between her work and the unique role CNE fills here in the Charlottesville community.

What do you feel CNE gained from having Liz here?
Liz’s firm does business throughout Brazil. Because Brazil is such a large country she’s really had to leverage the internet to provide services. She was interested in how CNE maintains a local presence and I got to understand how she built her business nationally. That’s been helpful for me in thinking about how CNE can extend our reach to support nonprofits beyond the Charlottesville area. One example of this is our Virtual Resource Database, which we’ll be launching later this year.

You spent two weeks working with Liz in Brazil. What did you do while you were there?
A lot! Liz made sure my calendar was packed, which means I had so many great opportunities. I met with family foundations, corporate foundations, nonprofit leaders and staff, and a graduate class at a business school. In each of these cases, I met with their stakeholders—whether grantees or students or staff—and shared CNE’s perspective and best practices.

What did the nonprofit sector in Brazil have in common with the United States?
I saw the same drive to professionalize the sector and the intense focus on evaluation. No matter where you go, nonprofits want to provide quality programs through a sustainable business model, and having knowledgeable, skilled staff and the ability to measure outputs and evaluate impacts go a long way towards this.

What surprised you about the nonprofit sector in Brazil?
One thing I didn’t expect was how much national politics and culture can shape the role and structure of nonprofits, especially in regards to how culture and government view philanthropy and how this shapes the perception of the nonprofit sector. For example, in Brazil, funders support individual programs rather than organizations, which creates a challenge—bigger than we face in US—of having to support operational costs. Seeing this difference, I realized how much our own structures here in the US are key to sustaining our nonprofits. We have a unique tax structure that rewards philanthropy—both from business and individuals. Losing this would severely damage the sector as a whole. Coincidentally, I came back to work after my time in Brazil to an email informing me about the Independent Sector’s Giving 100 campaign. By allowing more people to claim charitable deductions, this movement seeks to further bolster our culture of philanthropy in the US. It’s one way to preserve and strengthen what makes our nonprofit sector so strong.

Want to hear more about the nonprofit sector in Brazil? The Presidential Precinct has just released a new episode of its Global Founders podcast based on their interview with Cindy and Liz.

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