When considering investing in a nonprofit organization, many donors direct their support to programs that give them a clear picture of what they are supporting – books for children learning to read or employment skills training for those who want to get better-paying jobs. Although investing in programs is important, I am here to challenge you to consider making an investment that will strengthen an organization from within.
At the Community Foundation, we place great value on an organization’s internal strength and pay close attention to a nonprofit’s strategic plan. Why? From where we stand, a nonprofit will provide the best services yielding the greatest impact and be the most effective in its operations if it has a clear vision and a comprehensive plan to get there. Additionally, a strong governing board is necessary to provide leadership and support to staff – and to raise funds for the organization.
Because we feel so strongly about this, the Foundation offers resources to help nonprofits address infrastructure issues, challenges and needs through our Nonprofit Toolbox program. Most Toolbox awards are not cash awards; rather, they’re custom-designed packages of consulting services to help solve a key organizational challenge or problem like strategic planning, board development, fundraising, succession planning or technology.
The Foundation awarded Toolbox grants to 47 nonprofits in 2015 with consulting services valued at $367,000. The impact of these grants goes beyond these dollars, 17 of these organizations are in the midst of or have just finished developing comprehensive strategic plans that will guide the board and staff in the coming years, ensuring they are on a path to achieving greater goals for the communities.
One of these organizations is Dad’s Garage, which recently acquired and renovated a church in the Old Fourth Ward as their ‘forever home.’ Dad’s Garage wanted to parlay the success of their campaign for their new home into a plan that would help them grow and improve. Managing Director Lara Smith shared that “the outgoing strategic plan was created internally, and consulting services gave us an objective view of our organization. We put everything on the table—live performances, corporate gigs, video work, school outreach—and figured out how to optimize the different aspects of our business model. The Nonprofit Toolbox award helped us create clarity at the staff and board level during this exciting change.”
The Community Foundation’s commitment to strengthening and supporting our region’s nonprofits includes more than giving financial grants. If you work with a nonprofit that could benefit from a boost to its internal strength, I encourage you to check out the Nonprofit Toolbox. The final deadline for this year is November 1 and we anticipate awarding up to 20 grants. Find more information here.