Michael E. Blass, a longtime NESC Board member, became Chairman at the end of 2012. He is the Managing Partner of the New York office of the law firm Arent Fox, and a member of the firm’s Executive Committee. He concentrates on corporate transactions and regulatory matters involving health care providers, and has represented some of the nation’s largest health care companies. His expertise in these areas has been widely recognized. Michael is a graduate of Georgetown University and the Fordham University School of Law. Learn More about him in the latest interview below.
Michael, what are NESC’s greatest strengths and most distinctive features?
There’s no question that our greatest strength lies with our large and diverse pool of volunteer consultants. We at NESC are privileged to be able to offer training to these very successful individuals and to serve as the platform from which they deploy their skills for the improvement of their communities. And I think what distinguishes NESC from most nonprofits is the broad range of constituencies that we serve. Because our consultants come from so many professional backgrounds, we are able to provide professional advisory services to organizations in just about every nonprofit field, including healthcare providers, schools, museums, performing arts organizations, and even government agencies.
Each year NESC has several classes of new consultants. What thoughts and advice would you offer to new consultants?
Well, I think the first thing I would say is to enjoy the opportunity. One of the great things about NESC is that our consultants have the chance to work with people and organizations that share a passion for helping others, usually in very creative ways. In many respects, it’s a very different environment from the business world that most of our consultants worked in during their for-profit careers. Also, I would urge all of our new consultants to always keep in mind the ultimate missions of the organizations that they will be helping, and how they are really making a difference in the lives of so many people.
What do you regard as NESC’s most important strategic objectives?
Probably, our most important strategic objective is to increase our visibility among the many, many nonprofits that would benefit from the services we can offer them. Most nonprofits are not aware of the tremendous talent pool that is available to their organizations through NESC. Amazingly, many nonprofits continue to turn to large and expensive for-profit professional firms for the kind of assistance that we can offer them for far less cost, and usually with a more senior level of hands-on attention.
How is NESC’s business environment changing?
Nonprofits are feeling the pinch of less government support and increasing competition for foundation and charitable dollars. That means, of course, that our nonprofit clients are finding it harder to pay even the modest fees that NESC must charge to continue its own nonprofit services. As a result, we as an organization will have to find ways to run leaner and even more efficiently.
What are our biggest challenges?
Our biggest challenge is attracting corporate and foundation support. Unlike many – if not most – nonprofits, we work behind the scenes for other nonprofit organizations.. We’re getting under the hood and helping these entities run smoother and stronger. Consequently, we don’t have the visibility to the public that a lot of corporate benefactors and large foundations desire when they’re giving money to charities. We’re looking at ways to address this, including possible collaborations with other nonprofits in developing projects that provide a direct service to a public constituency.
How might NESC look different a year from now? What changes might occur over the next five years?
Like a lot of the nation’s nonprofits, NESC is at a transitional time in its long history. We are going to have to find ways of operating on less and, at the same time, elevating our brand. So I think that over the next 12 months we will probably get a little leaner, but stronger, as we forge new relationships with funding sources and other nonprofits. Five years from now, I think we will be using new technologies to deploy and work with our consultants, as well as to serve our client organizations. I also think we will have established strategic collaborations with two or three other nonprofits that will enable us to achieve economies of scale, leverage our resources and even deliver new kinds of services to our clients. Hopefully, we will be looking back at the challenges we are facing now and realize that this was a time of great opportunity, and that we seized that opportunity to build an even better NESC.