Common Good Vermont 2009 Annual Report

December 14, 2009

Memo To: Vermont Nonprofit Allies
CCTV Center for Media & Democracy
Common Good Vermont Update 2009

CCTV appreciates the opportunity to update the Vermont Community Foundation on the progress of Common Good Vermont. The project represents a significant Foundation investment and expectations for the project are high. During the first year of the project, CCTV focused on laying the foundation for the project. We convened nonprofit staff, board and allies; clarified their mission critical needs and established communications systems. We continue to map and weave networks; host conversations, produce content and are develop a way forward. In 2010 Common Good Vermont will leverage this network infrastructure to not simply connect but engage nonprofit people and build social capital.

Common Good Vermont is a people and web-based network to enable community and nonprofit leaders to access their collective knowledge, build partnerships, solve problems and achieve long-term social benefit for the people of Vermont. The project will result in 1/ an animated network of nonprofit organizations connected with each other and 2/ a vibrant, active online web portal/ commons/ network that raises the profile of the independent sector and provides capacity support in the areas of concern to nonprofit leaders. At the conclusion of year two, CCTV will present 3/ a business plan that evaluates and proposes scenarios for the long-term viability of the initiative.

1. Population Served: More than 2700+[i] active nonprofit organizations provide food, shelter, healthcare and education throughout Vermont. They protect watersheds and downtowns, enliven our lives with the arts and fulfill their vital role as a “core part of healthy Vermont communities.” The sector accounts for at least $4 billion in revenue and account for 24 organizational types[ii].   Some are large (i.e., state government, hospitals, colleges), but 75% operate with budgets of less than $200,000 ($1 billion in revenue). Vermont’s nonprofits face perennial financial uncertainties - and worry about the impact of this economic “contraction” on service delivery - as well as the 42,000 people they collectively employ[iii].

2. Needs Assessment: Vermont nonprofits are accustomed to “doing more with less.” In the wake of Vermont Association of Nonprofit Organization’s closing in 2006, the Vermont Community Foundation held a series of regional meetings focused on the “Future of Vermont’s Nonprofit Sector” and co-hosted the 2007 Grafton Conference on the same topic. During those conversations, nonprofit leaders identified the need for human, intellectual and financial capital investment into the following areas: Sector Identity/Credibility/Visibility, Leadership and Governance, Public Policy, Capacity Building/ Technical Assistance/ Workforce Investment, Infrastructure, Membership Development and Resource Development.[iv]

These capacity building topics are also summarized in Vermont as the “four-legged stool”:  Networking, Advocacy, Research, and Training.

More recently, between May and July 2009, CCTV and the Vermont Community Foundation crossed Vermont to confer with more than 300 nonprofit staff (from 250 organizations), board and consultants to better understand their capacity building needs and solutions. Through these nine meetings, one-on-one interviews and electronic survey results, nonprofit leaders made a compelling case for 1/ overall capacity building for nonprofit organizations, 2/ leadership to protect, advance and raise the profile the state’s independent sector. Other key findings are summarized here:

3. Purpose: Common Good Vermont relies upon the broad and deep knowledge that is already held by Vermont’s nonprofit staff, board members, consultants, funders and vendors. Using electronic tools to amplify the work of the human networks, we can bridge the geographic divide of the Green Mountain State to share resources and solve problems in ways that can be measured.

4. Program Activities: Over the past twelve months, CCTV has pursued the human and electronic network building strategy put forward in the Common Good Vermont 2008 proposal to the Vermont Community Foundation. Staff includes Nick Carter/Network Coordinator, Kathleen Swanson/ Development Director, Lauren-Glenn Davitian/PI.

 a. Convene Human Networks

The number of active nonprofit organizations in Vermont is not entirely clear. The Secretary of State has 13,800 registered. Reports indicate 3-5000 filing tax returns, although IRS indicates that the number of “c(3)’s” to be 1,645. The state’s nonprofits are sorted by a “sector” taxonomy (see Endnotes) recognized by most of the project partners.

The “Network Centric” approach: Common Good Vermont started with key 125 capacity builders, strong list of connected nonprofits (VCF, Noonmark, United Way, Vermont Access), regional circles, regional leaders, subject matter experts, and now: sector groups, funders, and vendors. These contacts are captured and tagged and engaged in regular email communication (below).

Advisory Team – A group of nonprofit “thought leaders” convened in March 2009 (24) from list of key people involved in VANPO and post-VANP discussions, those recommended and those from CCTV network. The current list includes more than 100 individuals willing to champion the project. They’ve been asked to spread the word and participate in Common Good activities. It has been suggested that a smaller “kitchen cabinet” be formed from this group. A January 11th  (12-2:30 p.m.) meeting is slated for the larger “team” to review data, website and advice on future steps. Notes From March 2009:

Thought-Leaders – For nonprofit capacity builders who could not attend the group meetings, CCTV set up (20) one-on-one and group interviews/ meetings and surveys. Including Board of Directors of Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce, Vermont Campus Compact Group, Senate staff, assorted funders and people involved in the first rounds of VCF talks.

Alliance for Nonprofit Leadership and Management – In an effort to develop a “networked response” to the requirements of nonprofit capacity building, VCF convened Common Good Vermont with Marlboro/ Champlain College, United Ways and key nonprofit consultants to draft a common proposal and prepare for collaborative funding bids. The group has met four times since May 2009 and, with the help of Nick Richardson took up the subject of advocacy, below. (The Council on Rural Development has also been invited to be part of the collaboration, although they are pressed for time). The next funding opportunity may be the “Learn and Serve” proposal in early January 2010.

Regional Meetings[v] - In Spring 2009, CCTV held nine meetings in all parts of the state, 300+ attendees, information gathered on key sector needs (four meetings were originally planned, but insufficient to cover the state). The key needs identified: Strategic Planning, Board Development, Marketing/ Outreach, Resource Development. In order for Common Good Vermont to be useful to them, the strong message is: keep resources relevant, reliable, vetted, timely and easy to consume. Common Good Vermont plans to conduct a 2010 Road Show to invite networking, web site use and feature useful resources in 6-8 locations.

See Report:

Strategic Partnerships– Over the summer, CCTV reached out to key organizations (15) that can advance the Common Good Vermont agenda, including VCF members, regional leaders such as Johnson State College (see Local, below), funders such as National Life, IBM, the University of Minnesota/Masters in Advocacy and Political Leadership. CCTV is also working with a number of forward thinking organizations who are investing their time in Common Good Vermont, including Foundline (web hub design), Spencer Consulting (sector database), Vermont Interactive TV, Google, United Ways and national capacity builders including vendors, services and associations in an effort to structure club member offerings.

Local Partnerships – As part of its efforts to support strong regional communities Common Good Vermont is exploring local partnerships. In its first collaboration with Johnson State College, Common Good Vermont will support the local nonprofit coalition with 2-4 meetings in 2010 with Lamoille County nonprofit leaders to introduce the website and its portals and to test drive workshops  (both online and in person), such as board development seminars, workforce needs assessments, fundraising and cross-sector partnerships.

Capacity Builders – In September 2009 Common Good received 50 responses to its call for nonprofit members interested in providing workshops on a range of nonprofit capacity building topics. These contributors will be invited to provide resources to others via the Learning Center events on

Statewide Conference - There is an emerging interest in a statewide nonprofit event in a central location in late 2010. Common Good Vermont hosted an initial meeting with Marie Houghton/ Marion Lawlor of IBM and Martha Trombley of National Life, both indicating an interest in continued discussion.

b. Construct Electronic Networks

Email is a key component of the Common Good Communications strategy. Contacts are gleaned from meeting attendees (1600) and actively invited to participate in events as well as other “conversation” spots Vermont Nonprofit Listserv (100), Facebook Fan Page (100), Twitter (100). Email communications include daily and weekly posts.

Weekly E-News – (Launched: 9/09) Weekly email digest of resources, training and other network opportunities referred through other sources. The news is distributed weekly, on Wednesdays. to 1600 nonprofit staff, board, consultants from across the state. Average Open rate: 245 – 15% and Click Through Rate: 80

Listserv/ Vermont Nonprofit Google Group – (Launched: 10/09) Shares current information, Ask-It Basket. Email is a popular application and helps to build a sense of belonging for members of the nonprofit network. Current members: 97.

Status Updates – (Launched: 5/09) Staff and others post regular updates (2-3/ day) on Facebook (154 fans/ followers) and Twitter (117 followers). These are tracked by

On-Line Events Common Good experiments with electronic distribution of capacity content through its newly launched Nonprofit Maven TV show (distributed to access channels across the state) along with the four part Google for Nonprofits Series produced in collaboration with United Way of Chittenden County and Google Community Affairs. (United Ways was supportive of the project as well). CCTV utilizes multiple platforms including in-person, live and archived web stream, live cable TV, Vermont Interactive TV event. The events continue to improve as we work out ideal web streaming settings.  Survey results collected from these events reiterate the demand for easy to consume, value added knowledge. In winter 2010, Common Good Vermont plans to test-run Nonprofit Maven webinars.

Web Hub – Common Good Vermont’s web hub/ portal/ commons comes on line in December 2009. is an air traffic control tower that aggregates and sorts existing/ current knowledge. The hub is designed to accept “feeds” from a host of nonprofit sources and “filters” them by key words describing nonprofit sector, location and/or capacity building topic. Primary navigation focuses on: News, Networking, Learning Center, Directories, Listings and Resources. The principle tag that drives the routing of content to the site is “npvt” and, ideally, is attached to Vermont resources posted to, events posted at Yahoo’s “Upcoming” calendar, news posted to various locations, post jobs to and volunteer opportunities to Volunteer Match.


Sector Research – Thanks to Joy Facos and the generosity of the Spencer Group, we’ve been able to count the number of 501c3’s filing with the IRS and sort them by revenue and sector. Now we know that 10% of Vermont’s 1645 501c3’s with revenue more than $25K generate 75% of the revenue ($3billion). The “team” is meeting with the VCF to determine their level of interest in the data on November 18th. Moving forward, the database needs to be hosted on a publicly accessible platform and the scope of standard and custom data searches defined.

Network Map of the Sector – This data will enable us to map the state’s independent sector and overlay related datasets. CCTV is hosting a Media Maven on “mapping of Vermont’s nonprofits” in December 2009 to present the nonprofit data, look at Google maps and demonstrate a variety of visual representations of useful data.

Statehouse NetworkCommon Good Vermont is planning to train a cadre of nonprofit friendly lobbyists to use Twitter as a “Stream from Montpelier” for the 2010 session. This, combined with media streams, will increase and improve the information from “under the dome” to local nonprofits with a variety of legislative concerns.

c. Business Planning/ Sustainability: As part of the Knight Foundation proposal and the Foundation’s commitment of funding through 2012, CCTV estimated a 4 year operating budget. The annual expenses are estimated to be $228K/ year and realistic FY10 revenue is estimated to be $250-280K. Multiple sources of revenue are projected for FY10 including Earned Income ($15K), Foundations/ Committed ($75K-including AD Henderson, Surdna), Foundations/ In Development ($131K-including major Knight Foundation grant), Federal Sources/ Projected ($60K). Foundations will continue to play an important role in the support of Common Good Vermont until a state licensing fee can be set aside for capacity building work (estimated for FY12). A more detailed business plan assessment is necessary by the end of 2010.

d. Advocacy: While it is beyond the scope of CCTV’s initial proposal, Common Good Vermont is concerned with advocacy on behalf of the sector. It would be highly constructive for the Alliance to draft an advocacy strategy that builds on the strengths of its members and allies. There is a gap between what people need to do and their knowledge about how to move forward. Three recommendations made by Nick Richardson following a series of interviews with stakeholders during the summer:

  • Teach Advocacy Skills - Advocacy can best be taught and advanced as part of larger capacity building efforts (rather than stand alone training). The Univer
  • State of the Sector – There is a need for systematic thinking about the sector, e.g. challenges, impacts, resource distribution.
  • Coordinated Effort – By working together, the nonprofit allies can reflect the broad needs and challenges faced by the sector. Advocacy can serve a multitude of purposes.

With mutual intent, we can develop a networked response to open opportunities for the field.

e. Branding Common Good Vermont logo and colors have been chosen and made manifest in the Common Good Vermont bookmark, website and tv graphics. Broader claims on branding can benefit from further discussion.

5. Measuring Output and Outcomes: The project is measured in a number of ways:

Ability to fund beyond year two (to be raised: $100,000 - 150,000/ year),

Projections for FY10 show $200-250, FY11

Interviews with stakeholders (positive feedback on process and output).


Meeting attendees (20 early adopters, 100 regional leaders)

Meeting attendees (25 advisors, 25 key stakeholders, 300+ regional meeting attendees) 

Nonprofit staff people/ nonprofits actively involved in the network (250-500),

E-Mail List – 1600 individuals,

Listserv, Social networking and regularly opening e-news - 200-300 10-40 participants in meetings and workshops. (Chittenden County

Nature and amount of online activities

See below.

Development of data standards.

Draft framework for nonprofit data analysis.

Satisfaction surveys (positive ratings for the question “Did you find what you were looking for?”).

Surveys for spring and fall events indicate high interest in program content and attending future events.


Preliminary outputs for

Hosted at CCTV’s website in 2009.

Number of unique visitors to the site (3000),

1100 hits since March

Repeat visitors to the site (2000/year),

See 2010

Access Directories (5,000/year),

See 2010

Media Views & Downloads (10/day),
Webinar Registration (240/year),
“Ask the Expert” Chat Registration (240 year),
Forum Participation (5 forums, 10 participants),
Twitter Posters (50/year),
Communications Tool Kit (1500/year),
Time on Site (3 minutes).

Webstream audiences – 20-25 online audience members for Google for Nonprofits webcasts 10/09, 40 registrants for VIT workshop 11/10



[i] [i] Vermont Secretary of State data indicates there are nearly 14,000 nonprofit entities in Vermont. The IRS lists 1600 501(c)3’s with revenue over $25,000 that file tax returns. A general estimate of 2700-3500 is generally accepted.


[ii] National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities  

    * Arts/ Culture and Humanities

    * Educational Institutions

      Environmental Quality, Protection and Beautification

    * Animal Related

    * Health – General and Rehabilitative

    * Mental Health, Crisis Intervention

    * Diseases, Disorders, Medical Disciplines

    * Medial Research

    * Public Protection: Crime/ Courts/ Legal Services

    * Employment/ Jobs

    * Food, Agriculture and Nutrition

    * Housing Shelter

    * Public Safety, Disaster Preparedness and Relief

    * Recreation, Sports, Leisure Activities

    * Youth Development

    * Human Services

    * International, Foreign Affairs and National Security

    * Civil Rights/ Social Action, Advocacy

    * Community Improvement/ Capacity Building

    * Philanthropy, Voluntarism & Grantmaking Foundations

    * Science/ Technology Research Institutes, Services

    * Social Sciences

    * Public Affairs and Society Benefit

    * Religion, Spiritual Development

    * Mutual/ Membership Benefit Organizations
Also, for consideration, Understanding Vermont taxonomy:;

Access to Higer Education, Affordable Housing, Aging Populations, Arts, Business Climate, Childhood Poverty, Civic Engagement, Climate Change, Costs of Living, Cultural Heritage, Domestic & Social Violence, Drug & Alcohol Abuse, Economic Strengths, Education, Energy Alternatives, Habitat Loss, Health Care, Homelessness & Hunger, Immigtants & Refugees, Incarceration & Corrections, Land Use, Mental Health, Natural Resources Protection, Student Safety, Water Pollution, Workforce Readiness, Youth Engagement & Support

[iii] “The Future of Vermont’s Nonprofit Sector: A Framework for Stewardship and Success”, a Report of the Thirty-Second Grafton Conference, June 2007.

[iv] Grafton Report, pp 20-21, 32.

[v] The schedule of events can be found here along with invitation: