Nonprofit Performance 360 Issue 12
WILLIAM BODINE Nonprofits that Work Together
Nonprofit Collaboration in a Competitive World
As president and CEOof the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation, an organization serving our city of 70,000 plus the four surrounding Virginia counties and the roughly 250,000 people who call this region home, I am in a good position to see how local nonprofits interact. Our foundation provided over $1.7 million in grants in 2017 to 169 different local nonprofits. This provides the opportunity to observe where there may be gaps in services, as well as overlaps, and reinforces to me that we must be as diligent as possible in ensuring that our donors’ money goes where it can do the most good. It is also incumbent on us, I believe, to work to foster cooperation and collaboration between various organizations. Inevitably, with so many people trying to find ways to help their fellow citizens, there are often multiple individuals or organizations that have decided to do similar things.Human nature being what it is, there is a tendency to spot a problem and then galvanize resources to attack it. This is often done without stopping to analyze what resources might already be in place and how efforts might be coordinated to make optimal use of both time and limited money. In our position of working with so many local nonprofits, those of us working in community foundations are often in a good spot to see where these types of things are happening and possibly to facilitate the sharing of information, manpower, and time.
are in terms of fundraising, but we have somewhat different missions, and the quality and commitment to the community by my foundation colleagues has allowed us to keep our focus on why we’re all here: to try to make our area a better, more fulfilling place to live. As long as all of us keep our eyes on that as a goal, we can continue to work powerfully together for the betterment of central Virginia. This requires the subsuming of egos and any tendency toward empire building as an end in itself. Thankfully, this philanthropic community is currently led by people of integrity and selflessness, making this possible. As tax laws change and generations move from Baby Boomers to Millennials to Gen Xers and Gen Zers, we as fundraising professionals have to find new and better ways to employ finite dollars entrusted to us by our donors to help our communities thrive. This is going to require more and better cooperation between not only agencies, but foundations themselves. We will always be better together. Bill Bodine, M.Ad., is a graduate of Lynchburg College (now University of Lynchburg) with both undergraduate and graduate degrees there. Much of his career was spent in healthcare, but he is now the President and CEO of the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation, which was formed in 1972, and in 2017 provided grants to local nonprofits and scholarships totaling just over $1.7 million. www.lynchburgfoundation.org
This can be done on many levels. For example, let’s say a small nonprofit is working to feed people and has limited funds for legal, marketing, or other professional services. This small organization may not be aware that there are reasonably affordable resources out there, so it may simply be a matter of sharing useful information. We have also begun here to convene small groups of people working on similar problems, just to be sure they are in communication with each other.This can create opportunities to join forces or just to develop a sense that no one is fighting battles on their own. It is important, as well, to hold nonprofits accountable for using our donors’ grant money as efficiently as possible and for the purposes originally proposed. Our community and region, like most, has a number of foundations and other philanthropic organizations working to enhance the lives of its citizens. There are a few family foundations, a large health foundation, and an active United Way chapter here. We are in regular communication to compare our grantmaking and to try to evaluate where all of our funds are going so as to assess our collective effectiveness. It would be easy to see ourselves as competitors, which we
24 I Nonprofit Performance Magazine
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